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Corsica All to Ourselves

Going to Corsica in November is like breaking into a huge shopping centre after hours.  Everything you’ve every wanted is there and you get it all to yourself. The small island packs in every possible type of topography in her 180km length.  High rugged peaks and the narrow, twisting, heart stopping mountain roads that go with them.  Quiet lush green pastures dotted with goats, sheep and terribly skinny cows.  At first we thought they were malnourished.  They have the hip bones of supermodels lying on their backs. There are charming villages that seem to drip into the sea and oh, the sea.  Two hundred and twenty beaches of swimming pool clear water and icing sugar sand…all empty.  Except for you. 


Sweetest little trailer – “La Roullotte”

After a sweet stay in the northern town of Oleta we moved inland to…how do you say ‘the middle of nowhere’ in Corsican?  No kidding, one night we came home in the pitch dark to find our stone walled garden filled with those boney cows I was telling you about.  We had to chase them out with our iPhone flashlights.  Yeeehaw style! They had busted in the back gate. Perhaps they were tempted by the fresh green shoots of grass that were growing under our shade tree. The one with the red wrought iron swing hanging from it, right beside the old lanterns strung up in the branches to illuminate your dinner party and the French wicker cafe chairs around the red metal table.  Are your charming alarm bells ringing yet?  Just wait.  We had booked a roulette or old wooden gypsy caravan through AirBnB in the idyllic countryside because a) we have a tight budget and it was cheap  b) the photos looked too rustic+funky+lovely to believe c) we wanted to experience all aspects of the corsican landscape and lifestyle and d) it was cheap. Continue Reading →

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Turning 50 in Corsica

“You’re going to Corsica?”  Pascal rolled up his sleeve and showed me the goose bumps on his arm.  “I have always wanted to go there!”  He and his lovely young wife run the epicerie or local grocery store in the village.  “Corse (as it’s called in French) is the most beautiful place in all the world!”  I haven’t seen the whole world but from what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think he’s exaggerating.     Continue Reading →

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Winging It in Barcelona

Barcelona apt

El Raval from our balcony

At the beginning of this year long journey we decided not to plan too much ahead of time.  This leaves us the flexibility to stay longer in places we love and swerve off track when someone gives us an interesting local recommendation.  The approach has steered us to a few dodgy spots.  It has also pole vaulted us into some magical situations…like late night cooking with the Spanish Kramer.

Barcelona is just three hours by fast TGV train from Carcassonne where we had been living for the month studying French.  We decided to zip down for a few days and explore Gaudi’s architecture, the Picasso Museum and munch on a few tapas.  Not knowing Barcelona’s different areas well and having a fairly tight accommodation budget we booked an AirBnB in the El Raval section of town.  As soon as we got off the metro and started trying to find our apartment we realized that perhaps this was not the best location for family accommodation.  I’m all for cool rustic spots but this area had the vibe (and smell) of real poverty, petty crime and inner-city grit.  Once we located the apartment and met our host, Melisa the sax player, we felt a little better.  She told us the pick-pockets were graceful but not violent.  “Don’t leave your mobile phone on the table at restaurants and just hold your purse like a baby and you’ll be fine”.  The third floor walk-up had been refurbished (inside not out), was very clean and had an enormous double bolting lock on the door.  The family below us had 7 children in a similar small two bedroom apartment.  I know this because I could hear them yelling at each other through the paper thin walls. Continue Reading →

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Square Pillows and Wine on Tap – Life in the French Countryside

tara and ly walking

Our morning commute

Our pillows are square.  The ones on our beds.  It’s tough finding the right angle for your neck and shoulder if you’re a side sleeper.  I often end up feeling like my head is inside a giant taco.  They seem to be square in most homes.  Not rectangular like in Canada.  No idea why, this is just one of the many little differences that have started to feel normal since we’ve been living here in the small village of Villegaihenc, France.  Our town is about 10 minutes drive from Carcassonne where we have been taking French lessons every morning for the last 4 weeks.  We try to speak and write simple French words and sentences for three hours, with a merciful tea break somewhere in the middle.   In France one ‘takes’ tea or coffee.  Like you ‘take’ a nap or a picture.  It feels more like a break that way.  One of our most helpful phrases goes like this: “Avez-vous soif? Voulez-vous prendre quelque chose?”   “Do you have thirst, would you like to take something?” See , not a total waste of time.

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