Instead of Weeknotes this week, as I’m on holiday, I thought I’d document the last 6 weeks I’ve spent in France, as people have been asking for my itinerary. After spending the first 4 months of Corona Virus World back living with my Mum and Step-dad in a little village outside Cambridge, I went back to London for one week and then felt a need to find sun, beauty and big landscapes. Living very locally for 4 months, running on the same paths each day and noticing nature change around me, was just what I needed whilst working 18 hrs days, 7 days a week during the peak of the crisis. My world had shrunk, I felt contained, and that gave me the ability to focus. I have never worked so hard in my life. It wasn’t going to be sustainable though. I needed to reset my patterns, I needed to refuel, and in the back of my mind I was thinking how I could best prepare my resilience for what I’m assuming will be a challenging Autumn and Winter. When I weighed up the options, driving to France alone, to a remote place, if anything, felt safer. I could have a journey where I made no contact with anyone — not even having to get out the car in the Euro Tunnel, and once at my first destination, I imagined I’d go to the supermarket once a week as I’d been doing in the UK, and otherwise I’d be working and out in the wilds — again, alone.
The plan for the first few weeks was to work morning’s and evenings and have the afternoon’s off, which is what I did, and it meant I had many afternoon’s out in nature. For the few weeks that followed that, I tried to take a half-day holiday every day, so intended to only work morning’s for the next fortnight. This didn’t work (though I did lots of great trips at the weekends), and so in my last week here, I’ve had the whole week off. And I’ve settled in one place. As you will see, I’ve done a lot of exploring.
I saw so much beauty, it’s been incredibly restorative and it’s reconnected me to a place I haven’t spent much time in for years. We used to come to France quite a lot when I was younger — my Stepdad has a lot of connections here as he worked with a French Farming Association to offer apprentices back in the UK at his agricultural engineering business. I also used to visit Paris regularly in my fashion days — twice a year for Paris Fashion Week and twice a year for Premiere Vision, the largest International textile fair to buy fabrics ahead of the season. The latter experiences weren’t great for warming me to France — Parisian fashion folk (whilst not wanting to generalise) epitomised for me the worst of the fashion industry.
On this trip though, I visited only new places, many of which I hope I will get to come back to. I’ve made a map with all the places I visited.
On my drive down I stopped off for one night Castelmoron-sur-Lot at this wonderful Bed & Breakfast. The sunflowers on the drive brightened up the hours spent in the car.
I spent the first 16 days of my trip staying inEmma’s Gite in Fosse, a community in the Pyrénées — Orientales area of France. I loved it there. Within an hour’s radius you have mountains, sea, beaches, rivers, forests. And it has a local outdoor pool.
At the weekends I did various day trips. The first Saturday I went to Collioure ( I did a few trips here), nearing the border of Catalan Spain.
On another day we went to Gruissan — to the small town, the large, expansive beach and the amazing Le Salin de Gruissan.
Torreilles beach, north of Perpignan is one of Emma’s favourite’s so we went there a few times. I also found somewhere to ride nearby one afternoon.
Another weekend day trip took me to Carcassonne, and I took a detour on my way back to Fosse to to go to Lac de Montbel, where I swam and watched the sun set.
Several afternoons I headed out from Fosse and over to Gorges Du Verdouble for an afternoon swim in this amazing river.
Another weekend trip took us off to see Ermitage Saint-Antoine de Galamus and then Gorge De Galamus. It made a real difference heading down to the gorge with Emma and Tanner as they knew how to get down there, where to get down there, and which spot to go to for peace and beauty.
Another spot that’s secret to the locals, another beautiful jade river, near Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet.
After 16 days in Fosse, lots of weekend day trips, and afternoon’s by rivers, I headed East for the next part of my time away. A night in Avignon, and then a week based in Aix-en-Provence.
With Aix-en-Provence as my base, I did a day trip to the Camargue, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit since I had a horse and spent a lot of my time dreaming of wild horses. On that same day I also visited Arles, and had one of my favourites dinners in the walls of La Grande-Motte. I’d definitely like to go back there.
Another day trip took me to Parc National Des Calanques, and a one hour walk to some stunning coves and beaches.
After a week in Aix-en-Provence, I moved slightly North and based myself at the edges of the Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon. From here I had wonderful trips to places like Roussillon, Gordes and Lac La Bonde.
My weekend day trip was to the Lake of Sainte-Croix, where I hired a kayak and ventured in to the Verdon Gorge. After kayaking and swimming, I stopped off at the Sillans-la-Cascade (waterfall) before heading off to pick Camilla up from her Eurostar.
Camilla and I based ourselves in an Airbnb on the edges of Cotignac, and from there we ventured out to different local rivers, stayed in the pool, and my favourite day was our trip to Porquerolles.
Porquerolles, a small island accessible by boat from Hyeres, was one of the treasures of my trip. We hired bikes, ventured in to the wilds of the island, swam in crystal clear waters, visited Fondation Carmignac, and then said our goodbye’s at the end of the day. I dropped Camilla off to stay with friends in Aix-en-Provence and I headed to Narbonne.
I stayed in Narbonne a few days, walked around the City and went back to meet Emma and Tanner on the beach north of Perpignan for a day.
From Narbonne, I started my journey towards home. Last weekend I had a few nights by a lakeside just near Baurech, South East of Bordeaux. It was so peaceful here, and on the Sunday I literally lay on my bed and on the deck and did nothing at all. Monday morning I woke to watch the sunrise through the mist covering the lake.
From there I took a detour, wanting to take the opportunity to see Cat and Guill, who’d hired a house just South of Cognac in Juillac-le-Coq. It was lovely to have lunch and a swim with them.
And from there I headed back South and over to West of Bordeaux, to the Atlantic sea and Arcachon. This is where I have been based the last week, visiting different beaches, the largest sand dune in Europe, and a day trip to Cap Ferret.
And that’s it. I’m heading home tomorrow for two weeks quarantine, but feeling grateful, restored, aware of my privilege, and confident I’ve been as safe as possible. Thank you France, thank you car, and thank you to the different friends I got to spend some time with on the way.