Switching off

Books. Coffee. Saucepan. Grater. Playing cards.

I’m going through my list of essentials to pack ahead of eight weeks in the Pyrenees in the south of France, where we plan to be mostly offline and almost completely isolated.

It will be the final two months of our six months away and I am ready for some quiet time. We have rented a small, rustic cottage about 40 minutes walk from the nearest village, in the heart of the mountains. We won’t have internet, and at this stage, we’re not even sure we will be able to access wifi in the village.

I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous. This part of our trip is mostly about unwinding for Glynn, he’s on long service leave and needs a good break and he’s keen to get back to work refreshed. So the offline bit was his idea. I want to support him, I think it would be so much harder for him to manage if I were constantly ducking off to post or scroll. But I think I need it too.

Even two years out from working in the media full time, I think I am still de-stressing from burnout and online addiction. I still find myself reaching for my phone to check newspapers at least twice a day. My morning ritual is two coffees and four newspapers. My evening ritual is herbal tea and four newspapers. In between that, I check Twitter, Instagram and my beloved Facebook reading page, Reading Between the Wines, email, Whatsapp and my other Facebook pages. I think it’s fair to say it will be good for my brain and my heart to try and have a decent break.

We are only three hour’s drive from Bilbao in Spain, so we do plan to nip over to see the Guggenheim, ( I am just going to pause here and say THAT aloud a few times to let it sink in) but otherwise, we plan to read, hike, amble, talk, play cards and stare at the scenery. I also have grand plans to make bread so if anyone has any recipes, feel free to share them. Especially if you have a recipe for bread in a cast iron pot. I have also bought a box grater so I can make potato rosti, (I just can’t get my head around those flat ones) and I have happy visions of red wine and rosti in front of the fire or on the deck watching the sunset. It’s funny the tiny plans you make when you have visions of a different life.

We have to get ourselves from our flat in Montpellier to the car hire at the airport so not sure the large book stack is a good idea in terms of weight but we don’t want to be caught short and I think I’d rather read hard copy books than my e-book for this trip. We have tried to choose a good range but we were a little limited by the offerings at the local English bookshop. It’s pretty good though! They got me in the new Margaret Atwood in only a few days.

I will miss Montpellier more than I thought was possible. I never thought I’d miss anywhere that isn’t Fremantle. Which I suppose translates to thinking I would never feel at home anywhere other than Fremantle. This is the first time I have ever ‘lived’ outside my city. Well, there was an uncomfortable few months in a squat in Saint Kilda when I was 18 and rebellious but I mostly sat indoors sulking and refusing to admit I missed my mum so I don’t think it counts. I didn’t travel more than that when I was young, because I had a baby at 20 and I worked. So this is new. And wonderful. Challenging, exhilarating and deeply, deeply interesting. Even when I have been homesick or desperately missing my family or tired or a little over trying to make myself understood in another language, I have still been really fascinated by the process. There is so much freedom to be had in curiosity. And the difficult moments have been so rare. Mostly, I’ve been having enormous fun.

The people here are very friendly. We could not have felt more welcome. I have no idea where the tired notion that the French are arrogant or insular comes from. Obviously you get a range of personalities in every country but I also think some of us born in English speaking countries think we are the only ones allowed to feel pride in our language and our home. When we barrel about assuming everyone speaks English it’s ok but the same assumption made in France is arrogant? Yeah, nah.

People will literally approach you in public and introduce themselves, invite you to dinner, join you for a drink, offer help, and go out of their way to be completely adorable. I feel like we have made friends already, and that if we were to settle in France, we’d have no trouble fitting in. It’s a gentle, beautiful vibe. Unless of course, there’s a strike or a protest, in which case, it’s feisty as you like. I love it. I love the fierce defence of rights. I love that half the shops in town are closed on Sundays and Mondays because people want to spend time with their families. I love they are holding on hard to the right to have a life, to retire in their early sixties. I wish there was more of it in Australia.

I do feel extremely grateful for the chance to live my own life now. I can’t wait to curl up in the country with my bloke. I feel so lucky that we have been able to spend this time together already, four months of seeing each other every day and we are still excited to cut ourselves off even more from other people and hang out alone. I don’t really know what to expect. Maybe we’ll hate it. Maybe we’ll hate each other’s company. Maybe we’ll be bored in a week and creeping off to civilisation but we’re going to give it a shot.

I’ll let you know how it goes! If we fall off a ravine or get eaten by bears, know this. We’re ok with it.

Just kidding. That would really suck.

Au revoir Montpellier, merci beaucoup et bonne journee. Tu es la plus belle ville. Je t’aime.

13 thoughts on “Switching off

  1. Hey Gillo loved your musings of your great adventure and your love of the French, France is captivating thoroughly enjoyed your latest blog we are so consumed aren’t we bless your heart Alan.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! I am SO glad you explained what the grater was for 🤣.
    What a treat !
    I have a great bread book – been making all our bread (and THE BEST cinnamon scrolls) since I bought it in the little bookshop in York WA about 3 years ago, and I cook my bread in a cast iron pot (in the oven). It’s this one https://www.booktopia.com.au/modern-sourdough-michelle-eshkeri/book/9781781318768.html. I have kinda shortcut the method – happy to run you thru it.
    Sorry – have to interrupt this -ITS RAINING OUTSIDE!!! Gotta go out 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That rain ❤️. It rained in Freo most of the night. Bliss after such a long dry.
        Have you made bread before? Things you need include flour with higher protein content (check the sides of packets).
        Watch out for your fingers on the grater 🤣. I need chain mail gloves with anything sharp!
        Sarah (N Dipity) xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Just so admire your decisions. Reminiscent of Susan Maushaut. Cutting off her entire family from electronics. Watching our granddaughters is a continuing journey for us. I’d like to swipe their iPads away at times. But, we’ve shared some beautiful moments with them. Photos (especially of cats!! Which Billie had taken. And their dancing ’shows’ filmed, are adorable. You’ll be thrilled to hear that today I had a call from the Subi Dymocks to let me know that Anne of Green Gables had arrived 👏. Fortuitously, I was in Farmer Jacks opposite. Looking forward to sharing how this goes with our 3 gals. Please continue your adventures. Such a (real!!) once in a lifetime experience and very generous of you to share with us. Sending love from Como where we’re having rain 🌧️. And earlier lightning ⛈️. 🥂 🐈‍⬛ 🐈 📚 🇦🇺

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I lived in Paris for a year when I was 19! Developed (literally) champagne tastes but came back to a beer budget. I wish you a champagne budget when you return. Have a wonderful wonderful break.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Gillo, you need to keep a journal that you can transcribe to your blog once you are back in the internet noise.
    I wish you and your bloke a wonderful Retreat and renewal.


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