Bordeaux

Bordeaux

If you are ever passing through Bordeaux on a budget, make sure to stay at the Auberge de Jeunesse. There’s a good chance you may run into a lovely and well-spoken old Englishman named Dylan, the epitome of a nomad. He will regale you with stories of his solitary wanderings, his journeys in eastern europe living out his car; the time he spent with a group of rastafarians in Jamaica; jumping onto a stage in a jazz club in Brooklyn and playing with the band; and most importantly the generosity encountered every step of the way. Then he will introduce you to every guest in the hostel, tell you you’re hungry, then force feed you his jacket potato. Just go with it.

Thank you for the stories Dylan.

What did I listen to? Blood Orange – It Is What It Is
What did I eat? Aside from Dylan’s unwanted chocolate mousse, I had one of the best Nutella crepes of my life. Had to be done.

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Recipe: apple walnut loaf from the wilderness

As mentioned in my previous post, this cake is great for all those spontaneous road trips into the French countryside when resources are limited. Can also be enjoyed with a glass of wine out on the vineyards.. as you do.

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Ingredients

  • Two dodgy apples from the tree outside
  • A handful of freshly picked walnuts, wrestled from the dogs
  • Three eggs laid this morning by the hens
  • A splash of milk
  • Approximately two glugs of olive oil (unless you have butter kicking about)
  • Ten stolen sugar sachets from the airport Starbucks that I found in my rucksack
  • Four tablespoons of flour
  • A teaspoon of cinnamon, conveniently found in the cupboard

Method

  • Shell and chop the walnuts whilst drinking a large glass of wine and listening to some crackly French radio. Cube the apples
  • Discard half the cubed apples – a kitten jumped in the bowl and licked them
  • If you don’t have any raising agent, which I didn’t: separate the eggs and beat the crap out of the egg whites with your camping fork until stiff
  • Shove everything in a bowl and mix together, fold in the egg whites last. We can’t be fussy about procedure here
  • Pour into a suspect looking casserole dish and pop into your tiny, one-temperature-suits-all camping oven. Bake for approx 20 minutes or until you smell burning.

I also made others with banana and coffee. These flavours work particularly well in retaining moisture, because you are likely to overcook the loaf. I did this every time because I was too distracted chasing after the dogs for the mixing bowl.

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The Day Things Clicked

We woke up at five and filled the car with biscuits. Armed with a post-it of scrawled directions, we headed off in the direction of the mountains. As the sun rose it became evident we were on the right track with the Pyrénées laying straight ahead, growing as we advanced. Yet we still became lost, somehow. Any excuse to stop in another tiny town and nose about was welcome. We took more pleasure in the gradual, three hour approach than the arrival of the destination itself.

The long drive to the Pyrenees
The gradual approach to the Pyrenees

After stopping in the deserted ski town of Bagnères-de-Luchon, we began our ascent.

Panorama on approach to Lac d'Oô

Hiking up through the trails towards Lac d’Oô, the name proved to be very appropriate. It really was…ooo.

Lac d'OôPyrenees horse and house

After a quick horse selfie we reluctantly descended back down to ground level. From there we decided to casually drive into Spain and onwards to a supermarket in Bossòst, better known as the equivalent of a booze cruise stop in Calais for us Brits. It took all my willpower not to buy 12 gallons of red wine, olive oil and a kilo of chorizo. All for the cost of about five euro.

It was a perfect weekend. And I have a feeling that out of every destination on this trip, my favourite memory will always come back to this. Probably because of the spontaneity of taking a car and disappearing off into the mountains, it just wouldn’t be as exciting in the UK. Even the petrol stations are more fun.

Edit: three months later and I can confirm it is still my favourite memory.

What were we listening to? Julien Doré feat. Micky Green – Chou Wasabi
What was I reading? Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring
What did we eat? Apple, walnut and cinnamon cake that I cleverly improvised the night before from some foraged outdoor ingredients

Ode to the Workaway

So I left London for a bit.

It was about time wasn’t it? Thanks to the tremendous discovery of Workaway I enrolled in several volunteer projects for the next few months. There will still be plenty of solo wandering in between and I am excited to see how far I’ll get toddling around with my suitcase. Ok it’s not the jungle, but it’s still freedom. Utter freedom.

A view of the vineyards from the house in Gondrin

At the moment I am staying near the Midi-Pyrénées and working in exchange for accommodation, learning about sustainable living in the idyllic French countryside and eating the best meals I have ever had. Also, it’s 26 degrees.

I’ve just been sitting out in the vineyards and the silence is almost perfect. I say almost because I think my city-princess-ness is kicking in and I may never truly adapt to the gritty rural lifestyle. But the unbelievable silence, the clean air and smell, the neighbours spread miles apart: it’s idyllic and a truly inspirational lifestyle. Because the people here have spent years building up their homes from decrepit structures and old chateaus, living simply, killing the odd chicken and polishing off the prescribed bottle of red every night.

It’s quite funny, my lungs practically collapse each night from sharing a bed with two kittens jumping up and down on my head, but I couldn’t imagine asking them to be moved away. The night is filled with incessant purring and I wake up to a cockerel, it’s insane. My day begins being attacked by ten dogs as I attempt to take them on their walk through the vineyards. The sun is blazing throughout the day as we carry out odd jobs and ongoing projects and I’m dead by the end.  And yet I think it’s the perfect balance that I needed. We sit outside eating dinner and drinking unlimited homemade wine with the other volunteers. It’s tranquil, back to nature, sustainable living – and the best community spirit I have ever known.

Animals invading my bed

But there’s only so long that my city-ness will be kept at bay. Whilst the sun is hot (and yes it is) I am content, but I’ll crave London comforts soon. When the rain hits and the wifi fails I’m sure I will descend back into British misery and complain till the end, but right now, back to basics, I’m very satisfied.

Tomorrow we are going to forage for mushrooms. I’m so glad I came.

Currently reading Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
Listening to Angel Olsen – Unfucktheworld
Eating Coq au vin – as fresh as it can get given the locality of produce

Review: Not Another Pop Up

Tucked at the beginning of Angel’s Chapel Market, this prime lunch and coffee spot is open for business. Just two weeks in and Not Another Pop Up already sees daily lunch queues out the door, with crowds eagerly anticipating what’s on offer. And with Chapel Market already home to a plethora of pop ups, the pressure is on to set themselves apart from the rest.

With pastries from Gail’s Artisan Bakery lining the window, it’s hard not to step inside. For some unknown reason, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas plays overhead (it’s March?), yet it fits comfortably with the mood of this little establishment. In addition to the much promoted authentic Italian coffee, you also receive authentic Italian service: merry, chaotic and loving. Amongst this familiar atmosphere the staff are eager to please, eager to feed and will happily mix and match your chosen dish if you can’t decide. Moroccan salad, beetroot tart and Spanish omelette are amongst many dishes that the chef invents daily from locally sourced produce. Though the stars of the show are undeniably the mammoth pork shoulder and hunk of beef sirloin sitting happily on the counter, just waiting to fall off the bone and onto your plate. From this it’s easy to deduce where the popularity lies.
“Oh, not another pop up” you may sigh under your breath as you walk past, but I can definitely confirm that this new neighbour is here to stay.

Not another pop up flyer