First Day in France
Moving South
Vienne and Vinsorbes
Dutch Campground
First Days in Italy
Montelcino Antonio
First Days-South Italy
First Days-Giovinazzo
Living in Giovinazzo
Picking Olives
Outings and School
Rosa's show
Hols & New Yr
Back to School
Croatia-Plitvika, Krk, Cres
St. Pierre
Camping on the Med
Eli's Diary
Rosa's Diary


25 April - May   Brittany

success at last

hungry for his catch

spotty and leapy

Bee keeping lessons

with translation

our beekeeper

see they are so nice I can put one on my tongue

I'll just hold him

Me too

Unicycle lessons

Construction crew

James (American) translating Garfield for the kids

Communal picnic

Astrid and Robin from Belgium

Treasure hunt (organised by James)

Tour of JP's house he built for 450 euro

Internal plaster over straw

Old oak siding

Solar collector

Steps into JP's Mother's house which he also rebuilt

Old communal bread oven

Maeli's 1st birthday


saying goodbye

Oasis campground

LeCoty (Mick and Jenny's)

Bread oven

Marche on Suzie's birthday

Sammy's birthday




25th April Mon

Mum and Dad leave we pack in sunshine and leave too make it to village beyond Bordeaux. The drive was particularly pretty and relaxed through lovely countryside passing canals and rivers.

26th April Tues

We wake in the middle of school drop off time and it make me think of home watching all the normalacy. We me a nice woman as we are having breakfast in a little square. Her name is Natalie and she lets us use sink, loos and internet at her work! We drive on and have a picnic in a muddy banked harbour with big  campers all about us. I even do some translation for dutch man about how this campsite works. Apparently you pay the harbour master. We continue on and pass La Rochelle and find a little cheap campsite not long after. It is run by a nice couple called Sandra and Phillip who are interested in Woofing and let us use their internet for free.  We have diner in the van as it is raining and get to bed pretty early.

27th April Wed

We can't motivate ourselves to leave as it is lovely and sunny and relaxing. So I do a spot of fishing with Eli and we are sucessful at last. While we eat out catch Mike take the others to the camp pool. Un headed but Rosa gives it a go. We chat with the proptietors and have lunch. I phoned the farm and our Bee keeping contact from last summer and headed to them first. We will go to the farm on thursday.

It is an easy run to Jean Marie's family, and we get a very warm welcome, and cuppa.  Jean Marie is away til frid looking for a place to be an apprentice beekeeper, but may get here sooner. I ring next wwoofer host and delay til frid.  Patrick and Marie Madolaine are going out to move hives so Mike decides to go with them to help. I have diner with their daughter Cecille and Pierre Luis.  Then we watch Aladin with Cecille. The others get back late 11pm. The bees had been in rape seed fields but now are back in theirs.  Apparently you can move bees far away more than 5km and they will go outside and orientate themselves to the new location and find the hive when they need to, but if you move them to the otherside of the field they will all go to where it was and not where it is and die as a result.  We all head to bed.

28th April Thurs

We come into the house and have breakfast altogether. The family are so relaxed and welcoming and we are all interested in much the same things. They have 4 kids 3 boys and a girl too but their youngest is 15.  They show us photos of a eco house they built near the sea.  They used a kind of clay brick that was very wide and had a lattice of air inside and fit together with others like lego and needed very little cement. It was a great project and the whole family built it together. The little guys and I got to have baths.

Eli went out with Pierre Louis and had a unicycle lesson. Mike had a go on the big one too. We all just hung out until lunch and had another nice meal together. Later Jean Marie arrived and we got to catch up with him and look at his pics from Ireland. Eli and Rosa were in great hands as Cecille did an art project with Rosa and Eli played on Pierre Louis' computer and had another unicycle lesson with Jean Marie. They also go to help Celine make a chocolate cake for after diner and Rosa carefully copied down the recipe. Then two boys from down the road came and played with all the kids.

Then all the kids and us got a beekeeping tour with Marie Magdoline and Patrick and learnt lots about the bees and who is in the hive and what they all do. 

Things like: the queen lays 1000-2000 eggs a day. Worker bees are female and have long tongues to feed the males and glands on their backs to feed royal jelly to the queen. They feed pollen to the larve as it is high in proteen and eat honey to make wax 100 bees for one little cell.

Then Patrick went into a glass room and took apart a hive and showed them the queen and all the others. He showed them how they get the honey out and he brought a male bee out and let them all stroke it and then he put it on his tongue!!

We all had a lovely diner together and chocolate cake and a nice walk and chat after. I had a tour of their field with its fruit tree and hives and other trees they have planted. 

29th April Friday

We had late breakfast together again and had some of Patrick's honey spice cake. He makes that mainly to sell and all their bread too. We started to pack up slowly and all the kids played outside on a great cart with Eli on his bike as the horse. There was more unicycle practice as well. By the time we were ready it was lunch time and we were invited to join them once again as the meal was ready and there was plenty. We were really sad to leave after lunch and hope they will all come and visit and we may see them again too.

The drive to the next place didn't take long but we were very unsure of directions as I had been given them in rapid french. We went to the nearby town and turned around to try to work it out. A car passed us and as we followed it they began to make signal for us to follow. We did and they were from the farm and guess who we were. The place is a community of mainly very young people two babies and lots of woofers and others. I think I counted at least 4 with dreadlocks. They are all very friendly and welcoming and we get a tour. There are five houses close together in a little hamlet. They have virtually finished three of them and are working on one of the others and then the last later. They are extending the one they are working on with a strawbale extension which excits us both as we should be here when it goes up. We don't end up doing any work really just bring our gear into two bedrooms both with access just from the outside newly completed. Rosa and Eli have their own and we have one with the boys. They are small but have nice windowed doors and veluxes and neat plastering inside with patterns and stone work peeping out in places. I find a huge pot of lentil cooking on the stove and make a big pile of lentil burgers still leaving loads. They are eaten by us and the crowd as they come in. There are three other wwoofers one german and two from Belgium arrived just after us.

The kids discover music stuff upstairs. Sammy has a good go on the trumpet and manages very well. Later some of the lads start jamming on electric guitar and drums its very rasta.

We take the kids off to bed and leave them too it.

30th April Sat

We get up and find lots of fresh yeast bread for breakfast and we are the first ones. Marie french canadian and her husband, french made it. We have some with J.P. (french and the boss) and Thomas (german woofer here 2.5months) then Mike joins them to work at putting the roof on the extension. I can't do anything without the small boys following for now so I make soup for lunch and tidy up the kitchen. After lunch Finn sleep and Sammy is happy to play so I go and get a job which is mixing up some fresh cement and filling in at the edge of a room over a pipe. It takes me the rest of the day and I am joined by Finn who helps later. When I am done I put some spuds in the oven and get a breather to catch up on the journal.


Another lovely morning, we think we have the day off and relax outside saying hello to others when they pass. Marie comes and tells us they make croissants and pain au chocolate for sale on sunday pms we ask for 6 of each. She also asks if we can help them as the are working on another house they need to move into for the summer. I decide to help and Mike takes the boys on a bike ride. I am filling gaps in the stone work in a second story of the house.  It is enjoyable work constructing and finding the right stones. Mike gets back and makes late sunday pancakes but the compete with the timing of the croissants that Rosa has been helping with. Some of us have both! The pain au chocolate are amazing the smell alone has me in raptures.

I stop work pretty early and we have a lovely afternoon just hanging out but decide to go for a drive in the evening. We stop by the end of a sort of festival of young free thinkers and meet an interesting guy who shows us around the place explaining what they did (set up a community kitchen and had free spaces where people created stuff and made music or had debates). The kids want to go back to a playground near where we parked so we part company and head back there and have a sort of picnic. It is nice to have a bit of space by ourselves and we feel refreshed when we go back to the farm. The Belge couple have cooked and we are just in time for diner. Maud the hostess and her partner and son arrive and we say are hellos but we are pretty tired tonight so are first off to bed.


With the host in residence we feel a certain pressure to be up and at em this morning. Luckily the kids are already settling in well and there are lots of young adults around some wwoofers some not as well as the other family Marie and Sylvain so they all find somewhere or someone to be with. Eli is really enjoying the musicians who play all the time nearly and talk to him a lot. 

Mike and I get to work. I have a creak in my neck which is really unpleasant but can continue in one house with the hole filling with stones and Mike is working at a roof. We keep at it all moring and are glad when lunch time comes. We hang out with the kids for a while and luckily Finn falls asleep. Astrid (Belge) gives me a great neck massage which really helps.

In the afternoon I am putting up tongue and groove pannels on bathroom wall and Mike is still at the roof. In the end I help Robin (Belgium) alot as he is inexperienced with woodwork and tools and it seems I know more than him which is funny to me, as our boss J.P. does seem to assume the young men know stuff they don't necessarily. I knock off earlier than Mike because Finn wakes up and the others need some attention too. When others take a break we start diner together and make a veggie curry. The larder is full of beans and pulses but Thomas tells us that it is usually J.P. that cooks and he just boils them with some onions and eats them as they are with a little cream fresh so he is really pleased with our contribution.

Marie offers to let the boys have a bath first Rosa has one with Maylee her baby. Rosa and the baby are great friends now. Mike ends up taking over and then goes off to bed early with the boys.  I stay up at one of the houses having great chats with the lads there, as well as with James (USA) latest woofer addition.


We are dissappointed to see clouds and feel the odd but of wetness as it has been so beautiful but we are still able to breakfast outside before getting the kids organised with some art and getting to work. I do a bit of cleaning up and sorting the tools and then finish the wood paneling at the top of the wall fitting bits arounf the roof beams. I am up and down measuring an cutting all morning. At lunchtime I make some humous with the chick peas I find cooked. The kids are all content and are let watch a movie in the afternoon at the lads house. We are to help plaster the upstairs of what will be Marie and Sylvains summer house while there house is rented out.  We mix lots of plaster. Here it is made with a high sand ratio and we wonder would it work in Ireland as it is very nice to look at. We all help chuck it on the walls and manage to do a reasonable job. They leave lots of stone showing anywhat as it is very nice to look at. Later I stop and mind kids and the baby. We have a nice walk down the lane. Mike goes into Chateaux Briand to do internet stuff. When he gets back we make a sort of coleslaw and falafel and I make some soda bread too it all goes down well with some of Thomas' wine. I have a chat with Christof about how Maud found the place but wandering about the countryside talking to people and what we hope to do when we get home. Then I take Finn off to bed.


The days are flying in and I realise when I wake it is already Wednesday and there is a markey in Chateaux Briand today. I get up and get the guys organised and we go in. It is a nice town and market and we have a good look around. Highlights for the kids are a knife shop with swords, crepes au sucre, a dog hairdresser with pooch mid treatment, and lots and lot of fowl for sale including baby ducks they can pick up in their boxes. I get a couple of nice cheap African print trousers. We meet up with Astrid who was in with Marie and Sylvan who are staying and take her home. It takes me three goes to find the road we came in on but we make it back to the farm. 

It is not really a farm but a collection of old buildings with just a vegetable garden and a couple of goats more a community in the making. There are some perminant members, some semi perminant and then the wwoofers. Some tensions arise we notice from time to time as space, food, and work are allocated but so far we are not involved and feel we are both working very hard and since we suppliment the food too it seems to be working.

I make some muffins before going to work and then spend the afternoon doing a huge sweep upstairs and down stairs in the house we have been working on as it is soon to be the woofer dining room. Mike takes a break to play with the small boys in the woods as they aren't able to occupy themselves this afternoon but both Eli and Rosa seem to have found their neach. Rosa hangs out and plays with Maylee at her house all day and Eli hangs out at Roman's house and chats or plays with some of his many instruments. He loves listening to the lads play and jam together and Roman says he enjoys talking with him too.

It is after six when I stop but tonight Maud our hostess is cooking. It is nice to have diner handed to us. We have a bit of banjo and accordian after diner but I am wrecked so get off to bed pretty early.


After breakfast I go looking for work and there isn't a whole lot to do so I just clean up what is about to be our new wwoofer kitchen as we have actually been using Pierre and Johans house. After a while I decide to go and work in Marie's little vegetable garden as there is very little else going on in the construction. Sammy and Finn come with me and we have a lovely time together weeding. The garden is set out as a spiral and maze and Sammy likes walking around it. He says he loves gardening because he remembers when we used to do that in our own house when we was younger. I have a nostalgic 4 year old.  We stop for lunch and a break but go back again in the afternoon.

When we stop I make two big onion and tomato tarts because we are all eating together tonight. It is an effort to build community feeling after various meetings with Maud and the lads. We are glad to be quite out of any of that. We set up tables and blankets out side and everyone brings something and we have a lovely meal together. There are a bunch of lads who start to juggle and they are great and get into a circle in order to pass a ball as they go. The little guys get a sucession of wrestling partners on the rugs all big lads and then Marie and Sylvan bring out desert which is gorgeous: an apple and pear torte and a apricot loaf thingy. We don't stay up too late though.


I am up a bit late and play with the boys and Mauds little boy 20months for a while before going in search of work. Sylvan asks can I help them plaster a chimney so I go help mix up a batch. They use a heavy sand type 1 bucket lime to 4 sand or 3 pure sand and 1 sand with clay in it. It looks very nice on the walls and in places they put designs in different colours or allow stones to show, but it sheds sand when you brush against it. I don't know if that stops. They do brush it afterwards and maybe it needs more. We lift the mix up a ladder and Marie joins us and we get going. It is not very heavy work compared to brushing down the stone or flicking on plaster between the stones and it progresses quite fast too. We work until after 1pm and I am starving when we stop for lunch. Astrid has made a salad and their is bread so I just tuck in and then go lie in the sun with the boys for a while. Sylvan goes back before Marie and I and we get a bit longer in the sun. Then we take over and finish the top of the chimney and have a nice chat. It is after six when we stop. Thomas puts on some pasta in the old house as their is no gas in the new kitchen yet and I go make a sauce then we all have diner together along with Marie and Sylvan and we also have Shabbat blessings with everyone which is very nice. The kids have their movie and I hang out an chat with Thomas until we have a grown up movie (Black and White about a trial of an Aborigial man good movie) with Robin and James in the new kitchen. It is cold so we all sit under blankets.



JP isn't here so we have a nice morning skiving of work.  I have a bath at Marie's house which is lovely and then Mike bathes Finn and Rosa.

Mike goes into Chateaux Briant with James and wee guys. I stay and climb up a big scaffold to work at  pulling out stones from wall to make a window into a door. There will bit a stairs added outside later. It is tough work the stones are pretty solid and heavy too, but I like the challange of working with a crowbar, and Robin is having an even harder time on the other side of the wall than me. He has a break while I keep at it and one the hole start to enlarge it gets easier. J.P. has to come help me lower some of the larger stones and Robin comes back and we make good progress so I stop. I am pretty tired anyway. Mike packs a picnic and we  go out for a tea time picnic by a river. Its lovely and the kids enjoy the time with us and each other playing on rocks and running along pretty trails.

Later I sitt up with Thomas chatting and drinking red wine with Mike and after until late.


Up late and take it easy today. Mike makes pancakes and we all help with the 6hr prep of pain au chocolat. While taking breaks to play in the sun in the garden. We have lunch and finish with our reward the pain au chocolat are great again. We do much the same chatting to various people in the community until evening. Then we muck in and make a communial diner although Marie and Sylve do most I do make a carrot cake, well three, we are a big group and we eat in their house. Its all very convivial. The kids love it.


I take the day off to do our laundry and organise some of our own stuff. Mike does some wood work in the roof space.  I go to town with Maire and wee ones to get car picnic food for tomorrow and we have nice chats and are sad to be parting. When we get back J.P.s asks do we want to go see his house. We follow him and have to wait ages as he picks up new sawdust for the compost toilets. We eventually get there and meet his mum coming in from the garden. Then he shows us his house. It is a small strawbale house made for 450euro with all recycled materials. He explains the construction to us and shows us other stuff in his big shed, like the solar collector he is making. Its all cool stuff. Then he shows us round his mothers house the first he renovated with the same methods we are using ( sand plaster made to the ancient Roman recipe etc.) It is more finished than the ones we are working and is really lovely, although this is also do to his mother. She is a Feng Shui specialist. When I remark on her crystals she brings me one for the car to "deflect bad energy, from one mother of four to another". I thank her struck yet again by the kindness of all the people we meet.

We go back for diner. Marie and Thomas have made the wwoofer's new kitchen very homey and Mike makes spagetti. We are joined by two new Aussie wwoofers so I give them the info they want about what we have done and how it all works then I go to bed.


No work this a.m. I don't feel to bad as the Aussie boys are hard at it. We just pack and I bath myself and the boys until its time for lunch and at Marie and Sylve's for Maelee's 1st birthday. Thomas there too. Its a lovely warm atmosphere with them all and we have lovely food too. Sushi.  Very hard to finish and do the final pack. Feels like we have been here much longer than we have and we take lots of time over goodbyes. The kids are very out of sorts too. Moving is getting harder for us all. At last we are off. Heading for the coast in a uneventful run and we find a lovely cheap site with good facilities and nice man too, and settle in for a while setting up the big tent.


Lovely holiday day at the site and on the windy beach not much else to report today. Chatting about home and about all the experience has taught us and what we want to bring home with us. Feel in the final days for sure. Last farm should rap it up nicely as it was our first 2 years ago for a week when we wanted to see would it work.

Thursday 12th

Computed getting e-mails and journal up to date. Light  rain at times Mike minded guys as it took me until after lunch. Rosa and I went the 2km in to Damgan to look for an internet cafe with no luck but our friendly campsite owner offered the use of his phone line and Mike was able to send e-mails anyway.

Friday 13th

Still and bit dull with occasional sun. Lots of reading and some homeschooling today. I did a big sort in van clothes books etc gotta make room for all the wine we hope to squeeze in everywhere!

Kids content to hang out and play and meet a few other kids at last. We have camped so often off season, except for school hols a few weeks back on the Med, that we are used to having sites nearly to ourselves. We are still the only ones on the beach. So the kids have gotten out of the habit of meeting friends. Its nice to see them find some.

I phone our friends in the wwoofer farm we hope to visit on our way home and they invite us for the rest of the weekend, after that one of them is going away and we will find somewhere to camp for our real last week!

Shabbat movie as usual, (a Jackie Chan- Eli loves them)

Saturday 14th May

We spent our usual half day packing and leave after lunch. We make easy time but pass through a couple of thunderstorms. We also pass along some of our cycle routes from our holiday biking along canals and old railroads with Geff and Kate of Breton Bikes. We are making some kind of completion of a circle as the ideas for this trip were seeded then. They really started to take route at Mick and Jenny's farm and when we arrive it isn't hard to remember why. They are warm and welcoming despite being in the middle of packing up their house for its summer rental as a Gite and moving into the barn. The place itself still has the special kind of magic we remember from last time and they have been improving it since then too. I cook a veggie curry while Jenny finishes moving for now and we have a nice evening with them catching up on each other and meeting Theo the bump from our last visit who is nearly two.

Sunday 15th May

We have a peaceful sleep in the van in a field across the road and despite hearing rain over night we wake to just slightly damp morning.   We go across to the barn house and Mike makes french toast. Mick is a bit under the weather so I mind Theo while Jenny gets a bit more stuff moved out. Then they go off to a luncheon leaving a sleeping Theo with us and Eli and Rosa try to get their diaries finished while Sammy and Finn play in the playroom they have been pleased to discover. After lunch Theo wakes and when fed joins our guys all outside hanging out with the fowl especially the hen with new chicks. 

Nico another young wwoofer comes back too. We just hang out until Mick and Jenny come back and then we chat and do some more diaries. Sammy explores and visits the various fowl pens and the sole sheep (the ram) in the field near the house.

We have a nice barbaque with them eating all their own meat. Then we have an early night

Monday 16th May.

We get up to a misty morning in the field and head in for some porridge, after breakfast we get sorted and re-packed and ready to leave. Meanwhile Mick has been collecting some meat from the abattoir.  They don't slaughter all their own stuff and he lay it out for cutting up and bagging. Sammy comes in and asks what animal is it on the table. We say sheep and he runs outside to check if his friend from yesterday is still there. He is, so Sammy says no more. We say our goodbyes and thanks to Mick and Jenny and get under way. We are just going to have a real holiday week this week and indulge in all the foods we have been constrained about on our budget!

We drive to the coast and find a lovely bay and site right on the beach and have and nice afternoon there.


Trying to Sum up the Trip and Waxing Philosophical and getting Sappy too...

It is hard to believe we are at the end of the experience.  It is hard to believe I am 39 today. Anyway the trip is winding up and we aren't going to write about our last weeks holiday so I'm just going to try a bit of summing up.

Well, it has left us full of eco and lifestyle ideas and it has also turned us off some too. We have learnt many new skills or at least we realize we can do more things than we could before. Its a question of confidence, in fact.

We saw many beautiful and some famous places, but mostly we were able to have an inside view of how many people live their lives and they introduced us to their different lifestyles, cultures, and languages.  Throughout it all our overwhelming experience has been of people's kindness and generosity: our first stopover villages where people gave us hot water and one man picked us vegetables, our first wwoofer stop in Tuscany where a young couple took us in for the night despite us not working for them, later our South Italian hosts looking after us so well, the friends we made in Giovanzzo (I cannot list all they did as it would/has filled the site), our neighbours there who fed us and clothed us, so many passing strangers who went out of their way to help us in Croatia and France, the campsite lady who opened for us and then gave us oranges and lemons, the man who changed our tire and drove around to find us an open campsite, the woman who let us into the community centre kitchen and toilets and then let us use her internet connection, all the helpful campsite owners, the other farms in France who welcomed us and the wwoofers and community members we met who played with our kids, became new good friends, then there were people who we chatted to getting directions everywhere, who were so nice, one man in Italy turned around and drove in front of us to show us the way through the town, and of course all the folk who like VWs who waved and honked along the way.

If we hadn't any faith in humanity this trip would have restored it, as it was, we trusted people and they trusted us and we had our faith in humanity confirmed and then build on tenfold. 

The only downside, if you don't count roughing it for six months, and being kind of exhausted at the end of it all, is that we missed our friends and family hugely. Worse, since we are soon to be reunited with many of them, is that now we have made more good friends who live far from us and we will miss them now more than we could have known or imagined at the start.  We hope they will come see us and we can return to visit them like we do our US friends and family, but of course it is hard to get everywhere and it is never enough. It almost makes you want to not travel, but then isn't that one of the great dilemmas of life: invest and risk loss- yet hope to gain and grow, or don't invest and risk stagnation and loneliness.  

26 April (Tuesday)

Stop off at ****, a muddy port past Bordeaux where there is a camper "parking" area with water and electric - 6 euros if you stay the night.  Lots of yachts. 

It's cool and windy.  We have our picnic and hang out to give everyone a rest from driving, and debate whether we will go on.  Sammy and I are lying on one of the picnic tables just chatting; as we talk he is exploring something in my scalp and suddenly says, "Daddy, under your hair, you're BALD!" 

We decide to try to get further north so we have a decent chance of making the farm by tomorrow.

Arrive evening in a 2 star campground, nice young couple managing it.  Interested in WWOOFing, they manage the site 7 months and travel the rest of the year.  They've been to India and I think elsewhere in Asia several times and have some interesting ideas for bamboo housing in a campground, but not in a windy area like here.

They let us use their own internet connection so we send and receive emails.

Suzie takes Eli (and Finn) fishing in the nearby canal.

Sammy and I sleep in the popup tent with lots of our gear.

27 April (Wednesday)

Out of the tent the first thing I see is Finn half asleep standing up trying to find Suzie.  She appears with a pile of worms, not exactly the thing I needed to see before breakfast!  Eventually Eli rallies and she takes him back to the canal for more fishing.

Arrive Jean Marie's family.  Very warm and welcoming.  I go out that evening to help move some beehives; they sell a pollination service to apple orchards!  At first I wear a beekeeper suit (hat with screen hanging down, shirt with tight cuffs, leather gloves), but after a while I realise that the bees are mostly in the hives and aren't stinging Patrick, so I take it off.  Patrick's stung once, he barely notices, and I escape unscathed.

28 April (Thu)

Jean-Marie arrives.  Unicycling

Bee demonstration

Kids pulling go-cart

29 April (Fri)

Big lunch.  Sorry to say goodbye to such a welcoming lovely family.

Arrive at "farm", directed by 2 of the residents who find us on the road and realise where we're going.  Several guys with dreadlocks, with the accompanying laid-back attitude and musical taste.  However JP, the guy who organises them, is a serious worker.  That said, we are given the day to organise ourselves and we don't do much except make some food and clean up a bit in the kitchen. 

There are several buildings here, some have already been rebuilt and others are in the process.  I am pleased to see they are extending one building and will be using straw bales for the walls, as I hope to use that construction back in Ireland.

30 April (Sat)

First day of work, it's very hot and sunny.  I am initially working with Thomas, a German who is taking a year out before law school.   We have difficulty getting the roof timbers notched and lined up correctly.  Being both technical, we try several mathematically correct methods of getting it right but in practice they don't work too well, but we get some timbers up.  Later he swaps and JP works with me.  He speaks very little English but gets across to me that he can't figure out why the boards are lining up.  We get them all up anyway and will line up the bottoms of them later.

Despite sun cream, hat, sunglasses and lots of liquids I don't feel so well by the end of the day.

I feel challenged here.  The young people here are much more laid-back than I ever was, and the living standard feels less comfortable even than a basic campground (e.g. compost toilet).  Yet I am glad to see laid back lads with dreadlocks doing lots of constructive work, it sort of breaks a prejudice I had. 

3 May

Some carpentry and then plastering.  Trip to Chateuxbriant for Internet and shiopping

Hang out with all when we get back chatting and drinking.

5 May (Thu)

Continued reading ****. Walked the kids up the quiet lane with the book and felt very at peace with the world.

Evening had big meal where everyone brought their own food - WWOOFers and residents all picnicing out on the grass.  Some of the lads brought their juggling balls so there was a bit of a show/lesson going on.  Saw meat on the table for the first time in a week and was amused to see all the carnivores hovering over the chicken and eating it as fast as I could cut it.

6 May (Fri)

Built a compost toilet today, which is really just a box with a hole that sits on top of a big plastic garbage bin.  Later I gave the kids markers and had them decorate it.

Big meal outside Marie's house and had (brief) Shabbat blessings.  Set up kids movie in the new kitchen/lounge and had a second sitting for a more grown up one.

The constrast between the way people work together here and the way the owner relates to everyone reminds me of some companies I have worked in, where peers are great but there is a gulf between staff and management.  It is a strange contrast here because there are a lot of leftist political and ecological ideals in the air.

7 May (Sat)

Braved the shower for the first time here (I needed one!).  After that I didn't want to work and get all dirty again!  As it worked out, Suzie worked and I took the little guys + James to Chateauxbriant for some food shopping. 

Later we went out for a picnic near a quiet river, recommended by Silva and Maria.  Very peaceful and pretty.

8 May (Sun)
9 May (Mon)

Did a little work putting a floating frame around one of the new Veluxes, to support tongue and groove paneling.  A lot of time getting the distances and angles all correct.

JP took us to his house he built for 450 euro!  It is a small bright one room building with no fundation, stone at the bottom two feet and then straw bales walls with 100 year old oak on the outside and plaster with some batons (used to compress the straw) on the inside.  He also showed some interesting reuse ideas - metal printing plates from a newspaper can be used as reflectors in a solar collector; the radiator pipes and fins from a big supermarket fridge can be cut and rejoined to be used inside a solar collector.  He also showed us a solar collector he is working on, the same simple design I made years ago in high school, which is driven by the temperature difference in the water at the bottom versus the top of the collector pipes.

We have decided to leave tomorrow.

10 May

Pack, little lunch party for Mailee with homemade sushi.  Goodbyes to everyone.  Drive to coast and find nice campsite on the beach, our pitch is right opposite the playground and very near the wash block and very inexpensive.  We all enjoy having a meal just with ourselves and having our own space and time with the family.  Eli sleeps in the tent, I take a very nice long hot shower.

11-13 May

Not a lot going on compared to working at a WWOOF host!  Some down time, beach time, playground time, homeschooling, cycling and walking to shops.  The campground owner is a really farmer who admires Cal and says he wants the same kind of dog himself.  He lets us use his phone to send/receive emails.  I am really ready to go home but we may yet make it to our WWOOF host from 2 years ago if we can make contact with them. 

14-16 May

We stay with Mick and Jenny for a few days.  We pass the places where we camped and cycled 2 years ago on the way, it feels like we are coming full circle back home.  Mick and Jenny are very busy as they are moving from their house to another building for the summer so they can rent out the place as a Gite, and they have a new baby to take care of too.  There isn't a lot we can help with so we enjoy their company and try to help by minding the baby, lifting a few boxes or staying out of the way as much as possible.  I chat with Mick over the BBQ about their decision to leave urban England and settle here and he has no regrets.  Also re-meet Paul (we met the last time we were there), a friend of theirs who builds interactive museum exhibits. 

We walk down and feed the pig with Mick, and Sammy and Finn enjoy finding eggs in the hay barn laid there by the very freeranging hens.  There are new chicks this time, and rabbits, and I think more sheep than last time.  Mick says he isn't sure if it's moral to kill the animals (they eat the rabbits as well as the sheep and pigs), but on balance I don't think he is too squeamish about it.  He appears with a butchered lamb which he and Jenny proceed to cut into portions on the kitchen table the morning we are leaving! 

We leave and head for the coast, and find a lovely village Brignone Plage and a campsite right on the beach.  It's not crowded and the weather is warm and sunny though quite breezy. 

It's a struggle to set up camp again, my body is saying it's ready to stop setting up and taking down, but I know we still have a good bit more camping when we get back to Ireland.

17 May - Suzie's birthday

Suzie's choice for her birthday was to go off to a market so I asked in the morning and we went off to the nearest one in St Paul de Leon, just next to Roscoff.  There wasn't much in the way of clothes that she liked but we enjoyed getting some fruit, veg, crepes and a few little presents. 

18 May - Sammy's birthday

A really lovely day for him and all of us, we started with breakfast and his presents (dinosaurs featured pretty heavily!), then relaxed for a while and tidied up before we went on an outing.  We found a circus which started with a Tiger/Lion tamer and had lots of other animals and acts, the cotton candy was also a big hit.  Then had a dinner for Sammy with lots of foods he likes, and finished with cake and ice cream, and a movie of Sammy's choice (Spiderman). 


It is hard to believe we are about to go back to our lives in Ireland.  With all our exotic experiences, I think I expected to see some really dramatic change in our life plans.  But our plans now are to go back and see what seems right as we go on.  What is changed for us is, I think, our outlook.

In our travels we made some wrong turns on the road, but learned to accept them and continue, always discovering a place we wouldn't otherwise have seen.  We also learned that sometimes route and mileage plans, however carefully made, have to be changed when the wind is fighting against you. 

Personally, I found I liked doing more physical and less mental labour, and began to learn how to use non-verbal skills to communicate with co-workers when we didn't share a common tongue.  After becoming a productive worker in the olive fields and successfully replacing the camper engine myself, I also feel like I can continue to learn new things I would have thought before might be beyond me.

Having the chance to see so many different lifestyles, cultures and climates provided a lot of fuel for discussions about changes in our lives when we get back, but only towards the end of our trip did we realise that, just like driving into the wind, you are often better off dealing with whatever is being thrown at you in the present moment, and not worrying about future plans which may have to change anyway. 

Most importantly, we were treated so well and helped in so many ways by so many people we met.  They deepened my understanding of how to be welcoming and generous, and I hope we have opportunity to welcome many of them to visit us in Ireland, as well as to reach out to others that cross our path in future.



This site was last updated 05/20/05