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What I know about almonds…

Before I moved here and inherited the stewardship of hundreds of knackered old almond trees, I only knew that almonds were tasty and full of goodness. As they¬†are the wonder-food of the moment and loved especially by those going easy on the grains, many of us will be aware that they’re a ‘good thing’ to try and incorporate into our diets. Specifically, they’re high in monunsaturated fats, (which are believed to lower cholesterol), they’re packed full of protein and contain vitamin E, magnesium and potassium, and have been found to reduce post-meal elevations in blood sugar. Almonds can now claim the coveted label ‘superfood’. I wasn’t unaware of the rise of the almond; I had the Helmsley and Helmsley cookbook, I was ready to replace the flour in my quiche with ground almonds at least once – I’d maybe chop a few on top of my salads and cereal – but that was probably, honestly, the extent of my knowledge of this particular prunus. These days however, as we’ve been on this land from harvest …

Life has been happening

Some time has passed. During this online pause, life has been happening. Here are some of our stories… We stayed a few months with my dad in my childhood home in Liverpool at the end of our travelling year. When I first left my home, bound for Glasgow at twenty one, I felt sure I’d never feel enthusiastic about the place again. The idea of being ‘back there’ in the place I’d grown up had felt uncomfortably retrogressive. Maybe it’s the simple fact of being older and having different values now but this time around I found that there was a satisfying circularity to having my children sleep in my old bedroom, and the sounds of my night-owl dad shuffling around after midnight fixing himself a whisky and raiding his cake cupboard were familiar and comforting. I was able to see my family often and in a casual, popping-round-for-a-cuppa sort of way, which is something I’ve rarely been able to do. Then, in March, we packed up a load of our stuff (gathering boxes and …

Vanlife remembered

We’ve been home now for over a month. I say ‘home’ but for us as a family right now, this is a vague concept that seems to merely mean not living in a van that moves every few days. At the moment this place of non-moving is my dad’s house, the house that I grew up in. Our presence here is signified by the noise and mountains of life-crud now crammed into his formerly quiet and ordered, if a little eccentric, single pensioner’s life. My dad has lived in this place since before I was born and has never (to my knowledge) had any plans to go anywhere else. While I have moved my children about almost constantly over the last couple of years, my own childhood home has barely changed. Rob finds it bemusing that we are now taking baths in the very same bathtub I sat in as a teenager; watching our feet resting on the same taps that I rested my feet upon some twenty years ago. I have found it strangely …

The Future is shed-shaped

Before we left last January to travel around Europe for almost a year, there was a big question mark over our future as a family. People often asked us what would happen when we returned to the UK, what were our plans, how would we manage to get a house again having spent most of our money? They were difficult questions to answer because, genuinely, we didn’t have a clue. For a long time, probably since the days of reading about the children of Cherry Tree Farm running wild about the countryside chatting to nature -loving hermits in Enid Blyton’s books, I’ve had romantic longings for a life lived on the land. In recent years however, with eco-systems increasingly under pressure from the continued pillaging of our planet’s resources and the rampant beast of consumerism crushing everything in its path, I’ve felt necessity take the place of romanticism. I find myself unsure of what to do in the face of such global ecological chaos, but with an instinct to return to the land. Overly alarmist …

From a van, somewhere in the Pyrenees

I’m aware that there has been far too long a gap in my postings and, for those who are still interested in our wanderings, I apologise for being absent from this blog for so long. Right now, we’re nestled on the edge of the Pyrenees, covered in blankets, the boys gazing up excitedly at snow covered peaks towering around us. And I still have much to tell, and so many pictures to share from our journey but there are various factors that have been affecting my ability to post. Back in Croatia, I started to feel some awkwardness about writing of our own travels away from home – the difficulties and the excitements – when so many people were, and still are, undertaking journeys of survival; leaving their homes behind them to seek safety and refuge. I was moaning about tedious border crossings in the van, while at the same time thousands of refugees were waiting in Hungarian train stations, arriving at desperately pressured Greek islands, travelling across treacherous seas, and trying to find rest …

Stopovers 6 – Peniscola to St Chinian

#51 Camping La Volta, Peniscola This stop was listed in Camperstops Europe as a five euro stopover but was actually a campsite with campsite prices (albeit very reasonable ones). Peniscola seems to have lots of cheapish campsites and although it’s an established beach resort, is not without its charms. There’s an absolutely huge stretch of sandy beach and a very pretty old town complete with hilltop castle as well as the usual resort distractions. We didn’t expect to love it, but we were surprised by how much we liked it. #52 Camperstop at La Casa de Fusta, Ebro Delta¬† This was a totally unexpected find and turned out to be a real highlight. The Ebro Delta is a fascinating place and the visitor centre, complete with camperstop, has plenty to offer everyone; a fantastic restaurant, punting, museums, wildlife watching, boating, cycling and plenty more. The camperstop is fully catered for and costs around 5 euros a night. There’s plenty of space and you can spot rare and exciting birds from the comfort of your van! …

Travel Wonder in Kuterevo

In an effort to be more dynamic (!) and current in my despatches from afar, I’m going to try and alernate between what’s going on now and places from back down the road. So right now! Or rather, yesterday…ok maybe the day before. we visited a really special place in the Croatian mountains. I’d been feeling somewhat jaded of late, ‘road weary’ is as good a description as any. The inconveniences and frustrations of living in a tiny space with one’s nearest and dearest, with ne’er a moment of peace (not to mention the homesickness) was proving a challenge. This is nothing new. Throughout this long journey, there have been many moments of questioning, days of tension and enough bouts of sadness to have fully excorcised the idea that this was some kind of extended holiday. These moods always move on eventually, often helped by a large dose of travel wonder. Travel wonder is what I’m calling the feeling brought on by coming across a place that gives you a fluttery stomach, when you can’t …

Fez

Fez was to be our last big stop before we left Morocco to meet my parents in Southern Spain and we drove almost the entire length of the country to get there. Leaving the baking desert at Merzouga, we stopped only briefly at Azrou for a spot of monkey-bothering and once for an overnight rest at the Ziz Gorge, passed by the still snowy Atlas mountains and arrived in Fez only three days later. We were determined that our Fez experience wouldn’t be a repeat of our Marrakech misery and, to that end, we booked into a guesthouse within the medina itself, hoping to be able to give ourselves up to the sensory onslaught of the souks, then slip back into the calm of the dar (like a riad)* and recover. Our customary frugality was also abandoned for the weekend as we knew it would all be much more enjoyable if we could enter into some friendly haggling. To help us start our aquaintance with Fez without getting immediately lost, the guesthouse owner Brian met …