Family goodbyes

It is now end of September (yes, we are a month behind in our blogs) and after 2 and a half months in Europe, it is time to say our goodbyes to our family.  My plan had been to create new memories, especially for my parents whom we had not seen in over two and half years.  The more we age, the more realise that the most precious thing in life is time with our loved ones, family especially but friends too. 

It was our choice to move to Australia all those decades ago for our careers, so we always felt it only normal to return to visit family every year.  We have tried different “formulas” over the years.  The quick visits while we worked were exhausting emotionally with successive highs and lows every few days – the high of the reunion, quickly followed by a heart-wrenching goodbye until next year.  Then another time we hired a farmhouse where everyone came to visit. Us being retired, my parents not travelling so much these days, and our not having seen family for so long, we decided this year to have a prolonged stay in Europe, making several visits, to see my parents, one lives in the UK and the other in France, to make several new memories.  Covid has a lot to answer for as the pain of being separated for so long weighed heavily with each visit as if we hadn’t seen each other for years.  What is the best way to handle family visits when they are so far away (one could probably say we’re the ones who are far away), split and scattered?  We had originally thought of renting a place for an extended period both in the UK and France.  Maybe that is the best option for next time?  Any ideas are gratefully accepted.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful trip, we were constantly and thoroughly spoilt by everyone and loved every minute.  

We saw both my parents and our sisters one last time before leaving Europe end of September and a few more friends we hadn’t managed to connect with yet.  We sincerely apologise to those we missed on this trip.  An unplanned and spontaneous bonus was my spending our last week end in Paris, just my sister Diane and me while Anthony got to see his sister Tansy again too, together nieces and nephew.

My mum, dad, and our sisters

Although I spent my childhood in Northern France, my roots are in Paris, where I was born.  It is visceral and undeniable. When Anthony suggested I spend those days in Paris, I immediately thought of asking my sister to join me. Just the two of us.  Being an avid art enthusiast and keen walker, I had a few “serving suggestions” that would see us visit museums and exhibitions and walk the streets of Paris and try a numer of restaurants. It is easy to walk 13 kms in a day in Paris when you keep stopping to admire the buildings, architecture, sculptures and chat non stop.  We start our Paris experience with champagne, of course, at La Coupole – a stunning art deco brasserie near the gare Montparnasse followed by the most delicious crêpe either of us have ever eaten at Le Petit Josselin nearby.  This was a great start to our sisters week end!   Diane picked a superb restaurant for our first night:  Pouliche.  They have a set menu but gladly amended it to cater for my lactose intolerance.  Add this restaurant to your next visit – you won’t be disappointed!  

Our starters at Pouliche restaurant

The next day, going from the Musee Guimet for a pottery exhibition and admire the building’s art deco architecture, walking up to Alma Marceau along the Seine, up to the magnificient Pont Alexandre III, then onto the quirkiest place: 59 rue de Rivoli.  It houses an ecclectic group of artists, each in their own open studio, over 6 floors!  

Yu Tanaka sculpture – Musée Guimet, Toucher le Feu exhibition

Yu Tanaka sculpture – Musée Guimet, Toucher le Feu exhibition

Yoshimi Futamura sculpture – Musée Guimet, Toucher le Feu exhibition

Oh well, can’t get the Eiffel Tower in our selfie!

AfterSquat, 59 rue de Rivoli

Each level had different staircase artwork

My moto – Aftersquat, 59 rue de Rivoli

Neither of us could pass up the opportunity of walking to St Germain des Près and enter its beautiful abbey.  

Abbaye de Saint Germain des Prés

Abbaye de Saint Germain des Prés

The Musée Maillol had a hyperrealism exhibition.  What made this exhibition particularly interesting is that they intersperced hyperealism sculptures amongst their “traditional” art.  

Musée Maillol – Hyperrealism exhibition

Musée Maillol – Hyperrealism exhibition

This was followed by a visit to the Jardins du Luxembourg before lunch at Dammann Frères in the collorful and vibrant Rue Mouffetard.  Sweet tea followed at the Grande Mosque of Paris before dinner at the Coupole.  

Jardins du Luxembourg

Rue Mouffetard

Diane’s serving suggestion took us to the Ateliers des Lumières where they were showing Cezanne and Kadinsky – a fabulous show, presenting classic pieces in immersive music and video.  A final meal near the Place des Voges before returning to the UK and making my 5th and final visit to my mother the next day.

Cezanne at Atelier des Lumières

Thank goodness for whatsapp video or skype!  Goodbyes are hard but we can at least easily stay in touch even if we can’t physically hug.  We have had an amazing time in Europe but it’s time for us to make our slow way home, via the US.  Until next time…

– Anne

So what did we think of the campervan?

Over the past 7 years, we have travelled on motorcycles around the world and in Australia, in a four wheel drive camper in Australia and Southern Africa, a car and camping equipment in Scotland  and a 7 meter long campervan with bells and whistles in Queensland.  The last one being the most recent and only time we’ve travelled in this way.  I’ve had a dream to travel long term around Australia for some years now so after the most recent experience is a good time to review the pros and cons of each mode.

Motorcycles with camping equipment – in our case, 3 man tent


  • Total independence
  • Always clean and safe
  • Everything has its place and easily packed
  • Cheap accommodation and meals
  • Can pick remote and quiet spots


  • Long or hard days’ riding make camping at the end of the day harder
  • Limited space for fresh food and water
  • Exposed to the elements (including evening mosquitoes and flies)
  • Limited space in the tent to keep riding equipment away from elements
  • Awkward to get dressed in the tent
  • Limited recharging capabilities
  • Ground can be uneven/sloping making for an uncomfortable night

    Some days are just exhausting


    Remote camping – bliss


    Remote camping – more bliss

Motorcycles without camping equipment


  • Travel lighter
  • Minimal packing in the mornings
  • Can travel anywhere
  • Can dry out riding clothing overnight
  • Easier to do hand washing
  • Can recharge all cameras and devices in hotels/motels


  • Have to stay in hotels/motels = cost
  • Beds may be uncomfortable
  • Have to eat out = cost
  • Cheaper places might not be the quietest
  • I miss not camping!

    Our recent 3 day trip with just those 2 panniers of stuff.

Car and camping equipment


  • Can go anywhere the car can go
  • Can take as much as on 2 bikes 
  • Can share the driving


  • Can’t be quite remote enough
  • Ground can be uneven/sloping making for an uncomfortable night

    Our car was born for country roads


    Our week end cabin, the old village school.


    Cosy evening by the fire

    One of our camping spots in Scotland – so serene

4×4 camper 


  • Total independence
  • Consistent sleeping comfort 
  • Can carry more clothes
  • Can carry more and fresh food
  • Can travel anywhere and be as remote as one wants
  • Easy to boil water/cook
  • Can eat out of the elements
  • Can keep devices charged
  • Can share the driving


  • Roof top tents can be tricky in high winds (as happened to us in Namibia)
  • Some campers might mean cooking outside (with the flies, heat/rain)

    Surrounded by wild animals – the night symphony of animal sounds is unforgettable


    In our wild camp spot in Botswana


    This where our rooftop tent folded itself over us in Namibia so we spent the night in the driver’s cab. A most memorable night!


    The downside of the central desert of Australia when the flies are desperately thirsty and go for your eyes and mouth.


    In one of my favourite places, Docker River, Australia

2 wheel drive hire Campervan


  • Consistent sleeping comfort 
  • Can carry more clothes
  • Can carry more and fresh food
  • Easy to cook fresh meals
  • Can heat/cool main cabin when plugged in
  • Can eat out of the elements
  • Easy to pee in the night
  • Can recharge all cameras and devices
  • Can share the driving


  • Need to find powered site every 3 days
  • Cannot drive on tracks/dirt roads
  • Have to empty toilet and refill water every 3 days
  • Length and height constraints 
  • Packing sleeping area time consuming before moving off (the bed is made by placing the table top and some planks over the storage cupboards and moving cushions to make the matress)
  • Storage not that easy to access
  • Powered sites feel like being in a car park
  • You take more than you need and end up filling the storage space!

    Farm stay off grid in Central Queensland


    “Car park” camping in a commercial camp ground

On our last trip, we had the opportunity of talking to people travelling with different modes of transport and sleeping arrangements:

  • Motorcyclists staying in cabins/hotels
  • Motorcyclists with Elite camper trailer with Queen size bed etc etc
  • 4×4 towing large caravan
  • 4×4 towing offroad (dust proof) campertrailer
  • 4×4 with home made sleeping arrangement 
  • Campervan with bed that did not have to be collapsed and remade daily

They all had some great features and and tips and more pros and cons.

I think ultimately, the choice will depend on where you want to go and what comfort means to you.  Can you guess my favourite?

I love remote camping but sleeping in a tent is getting less comfortable as we age.  While in Australia, we are very unlikely to hire a monster campervan again but are glad we tried it.  My favourite mode would definitely be a 4×4 camper although nothing beats the feeling of being on the road on bikes, so that would mean bikes with no camping equipment… Luckily, we both feel the same. But that is not going to happen for some time now.  We are glad we seized the opportunity when we could.  Stay happy and safe everyone  🙂

– Anne

A week in the south of France

There are times when being cheerful and funny is not funny or appropriate.  One such time was 2 weeks ago, when the ambulance I called at 4:15am for Anthony arrived.  Anthony calmy woke me up saying “I need you to get up”.  Did I miss the 5:30am alarm clock for our day trip to Calais with my mum? No, it was much earlier and Anthony is writhing in agony.  Not his heart this time I hasten to add.  But what?  He tries to vomit when he never ever vomits.  His body is trying to expel something.  The pain on his side is relentless.  So once again, as he likes to joke, I call the ambulance.  By the time the ambulance arrives, the pain has subsided somewhat, he is dressed, can walk and I am ready to accompany him.  The paramedics are surprised to see him walk.  So Anthony jokes that whenever I call 000 or 999, the operator says they recognise me as a regular caller, do I want ambulance or helicopter?  Shut up Anthony I tell him, annoyed, then immediately feeling guilty as I know how much pain he is in really but he is putting a brave snd cheerful face.  Many basic tests and prodding later, and the pain now bearable, the ambulance leaves us behind having told us they suspected kidney stones and if the pain came back, to drive to the hospital emergency department and wait to be seen.  Over the next few days, the pain came and went, gradually in lesser intensity and I can happily report that he has had no pain whatsoever for about 10 days.

So we spend a week holed up at my sister’s home, waiting and dreading for the pain to return then both nursing a bad cold and cough at the same time.  We recover in time for our week in the south of France.  But this was not about touring in Provence but something completely different.  A retreat if you will.

A number of our kind followers and friends have often asked us when we were going to write a book.  We never thought our sedate travels would be of interest to the wider public but after so many questions and much encouragement, we have thought well, maybe. Maybe we could inspire others.   I recently read that a very well known writer and motorcycle traveller, Ted Simon, was opening up his home to aspiring writers and artists.  Ted is very well known amongst overland travellers and especially motorcycle travellers, mostly through his first book, Jupiter’s Travels which narrates Ted’s four-year journey through 126,000 km across 45 countries on a Triumph Tiger 100 500 cc motorcycle from 1973 to 1977. His book was first published in English in 1979 and I first heard about him and his book from fellow travellers in our hotel in Karthoum in 1982. An opportunity to get feedback from a successful writer who has inspired thousands of travellers over 49 years?! Inespéré!! 

We had met Ted in the US a few years ago and had had a few discussions with him.   I had read many travel books including his of course, read a book on how to write a book, spent quite some time thinking about our potential book and knew the blog would be useful for reference but that was it.  After about 18 months, I finally worked out a structure, and the first chapter.  Time to get some honest and early feedback.

We organised to visit Ted and stay in his 5 bedroom home in Aspiran, a tiny village in the south of France.   It was great to see him again, exchange stories and experiences – such a generous and kind man.

Well, I wanted brutally honest feedback and it was brutal!! The book structure and concept was sound he told me but I had better learn to write because how I wrote was bad!  Brutal but exactly what I needed.  Ted explained what was wrong and it all made sense. I went back to my first chapter and proceeded to work on it.  What Ted said was correct of course, I could see it clearly now.  I gave him examples of what I changed and it seems I have understood.  It doesn’t mean I will manage to achieve what is required, but I have been given some invaluable pointers.  I have always believed Anthony writes better than me anyway so we’ll see what happens now…  

Anne with Ted Simon in Aspiran

Aspiran, France

Walking outside Aspiran, France

While in the Provence area, we could not resist visiting a few historical and beauty spots on the way from and to Marseilles. It is amazing how much one can see, how much history and stunning places one can see when one travels slowly.  Medieval villages, roman bridges and viaducts, 12th century abbeys.  3 Unesco sites in one day!!   We could spend months in that region alone!

Camargue horses

Arles Coliseum

Arles obelisque and town hall

Frank Gehry’s aluminium Luma tower, Arles

Parc des Atelier with Frank Gehry’s aluminium Luma tower, Arles

Roman necropolis Alyscamps, Arles, France

Roman Pont du Diable outside St-Guilhelm-le-Désert

View from Pont du Diable

The back of Gellone Abbey, St-Guilhelm-le-Désert

Medieval St-Guilhelm-Le-Desert, France

Benedictine Gellone Abbey, St-Guilhelm-Le-Désert, France

Medieval St-Guilhelm-Le-Désert, France

A thistle, the shepherd’s barometer in the south of France

1st century Roman Pont du Gard, France

Pont du Gard, France

View from the Pont du Gard towards Nîmes

Gordes, Provence

12th century Cictercian Sénanque abbey, France

Sénanque abbey, France

Village des Bories, 18th century shepherds’s stone huts, Gordes

Borie stone hut, Gordes

On the way to Ted’s, we stopped in Arles and met up with one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends.  We had been in correspondence ever since his death so it was special to finally meet in person.  She and her husband even decided to stay at the hotel we were staying so that we could spend more time together.  Very special… Alan would be so happy…

Finally meeting Eve