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Monday, 18 December 2017

A whole year in one blog post

It's been a while, hasn't it? Well I'm still here, just not been in the mood for blogging. The good news is that I got my 2 year's all clear recently, and whilst both mental and physical health have been tough at times, I've managed to get away on and thoroughly enjoy 5 holidays this year! I realise looking back that I have barely written a thing about this year, so I think I'll make this a recap of the year type post which can also serve as my Xmas newsletter to friends and family, complete with pictures. Lots of pictures. So grab a cuppa and sit down comfortably as this will take a while!

I managed to get to England twice this year to see Mum. Spending a week with her every six months isn't ideal and I would probably try to do this more often, but it's not cheap travelling there on a plane, and is a long journey by ferry (I go as a foot passenger but have a cabin both ways so that ends up making it almost as expensive as flying). Plus I've been busy travelling elsewhere this year (sorry Mum!). I seem to spend all my time in England eating, all those naughty fattening things that I can't get here in France, but for just one week thankfully it doesn't seem to put too much weight on! This year I went over there in August, as well as in the winter, but as usual the weather wasn't great (not that it was at home either), but it was lovely seeing the countryside in the summer and all the beautiful front gardens as we were driving around. My Mum lives in a beautiful part of the country, in Somerset, very close to the borders of both Dorset and Devon, so when we are out and about going out for lunch we are often dipping into the other counties, which are gorgeous too.

In April we took the Moho out for a spin, just an overnighter down to the Morbihan on the south coast of Brittany for some birding and to make sure everything was working OK prior to our May holiday. We still didn't see any bluethroats and I still haven't got the hang of selfies.

In May we set off in the MoHo down south for three weeks. We'd been looking forward to it for ages, ever since we returned from there in September! We travelled around some of the Aude department, the Pyrenees Orientales and went back to our favourite place in Spain, the Aiguamolls wetland reserve near to Roses on the Costa Brava. Being spring and nesting season it was great for bird watching but I also loved seeing the wildflowers in full bloom, as later in the year these places become really parched. There were times that we experienced the Tramontane wind, which is a nasty strong cold wind blowing off the mountains, but all in all after the first few days, the weather was great and it was wonderful after a long winter to get into shorts and T-shirts, and go swimming. The upside to camping is that we mostly get to stay at places with swimming pools, whereas if we were paying for a hotel with a pool, it would be very pricey indeed!

I've seen these Scarce Swallowtails (Iphiclides podalirius) before but not for years, so it was a delight to see a whole lot of them enjoying the Valerian plants at Rennes-le-Chateau in the Aude dept.

We rounded the corner and there it was, the Pyrenees mountain chain right in front of us.

Me at Lagrasse, in the Corbieres region of the Aude dept.

Collioure, in the Pyrenees Orientales dept, not far from the border with Spain.

Me at the Aiguamolls wetland reserve on the Costa Brava in Catalonia.

Yours truly again after she'd been for a swim at the campsite in Spain next to the wetland reserve. Thankfully no mossies here!

And it's me again folks, at the lovely campsite beside the Aiguamolls reserve.

At the end of the trip we visited the Chateau de Peyrepertuse, one of the many Cathar castles in the Aude dept. They were all built high up on craggy rocks in very defensive positions.

The Queen of the Castle! Seriously, it was quite a hike to get up there as you can see from the previous photo, and K had to haul me up some of the steep steps. I was really proud of myself when I made it to the top.

We didn't have much time when we got back before my brother Malcolm came over and we set off in the Moho again! After experiencing sleeping in the not terribly comfortable occasional bed made up of the sofa cushions the previous year, Malc decided he'd prefer to sleep in a tent, so I had fun in Decathlon crawling in and out of tents and trying out blow up mattresses so I could get the kit in advance of his arriving. He then had to try out the pop up tent, and most importantly, figure out how you fold it all up again! After doing this a few times once we were away he became a dab hand at it. 

We spent an enjoyable week travelling around the coast of Finistere, which is the furthest west department in Brittany and the one place Keith and I had not seen very much of previously. Coastal Finistere is very rugged and it all seemed quite different from our part of Brittany, which made it all the more interesting. At times we experienced wind not unlike the Tramontane down south, but this time blasting straight at us off the Atlantic! Though I was quite surprised to see so many of the tender plants which I'd been admiring down south and wishing I could grow in my garden - olives, bananas and oleander bushes amongst others. It's quite mild in these coastal areas of Finistere in winter but it doesn't get as hot in summer as inland Brittany but the exotic plants seemed to thrive there.

This is supposed to be a two man tent but that would be a real squeeze!

 Pointe de Raz, one of the westernmost points in Brittany.
My bro and me trying not to get blown off the cliff!

 Keith and me

Playing on the beach with my brother - Keith doesn't do paddling and stuff.
I think this was the beach at Saint Michel en Greve.

Back home I got the mothtrap out a few times but I didn't get very into it this year. I was however really chuffed to trap my first Lime Hawkmoth and first Small Elephant Hawkmoth!  The only really special things in the butterfly department were the return of my favourite little Lulworth Skippers and a visit by a Queen of Spain Fritillary, otherwise it was a rather uneventful butterfly year at home.

Small Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila porcellus).

This summer we've both been busy with painting! Our exterior woodwork was looking dreadful with the many coats of varnish painted over the years making the wood look really blotchy with different layers which have peeled and been recoated umpteen times. It would be practically impossible to sand them all back to the original wood and start again, so we made the wise decision to paint them instead. Now after a good sanding and two coats of quality exterior paint the house has had a facelift, but it took some getting used to. It's now painted in Rouge Basque! It's not finished as the weather turned and it's a major job with the amount of windows and doors that we have, but it's more than 3/4 done and the rest will have to wait until the spring.

The front of the house after its makeover.

Keith doing a bit more here and there this rainy autumn.

I've been painting indoors so I can keep going through the winter. All these years we've been here we've put up with bare plaster on the middle floor landing and stairwell, and in my toilet and bathroom. I haven't felt much like redecorating and anyway, all my time was taken working in the garden. This summer was dry so the only thing I did really in the garden was water, until the heavens opened in September. I've finished the loo and bathroom and I'm now onto the hallway outside our bedroom. I'm only painting in white but it looks so clean and bright now! I'm really enjoying it too as it makes such a huge change.

The before pic; you can't really see what a state the plaster was in.

The after pic, looking from the toilet into the bathroom.

After another quick overnighter down in the Morbihan just to get into the Moho swing again, we set off on yet another trip down south. We wouldn't normally have chosen mid October as a time to set off, but the reason for going at this time was because towards the end of the month we celebrated our silver wedding anniversary (25 years)!!! Where have the years gone?!!! I thought this was a good excuse to go away again and Keith didn't take much encouraging when I suggested it. This time we chose to go to the other side of the south of France, to Provence. The last time we were there must have been about 17 or 18 years ago - we'd visited a few times when we lived the other side of France as the Cote d'Azur was our closest coastline.

Provence was lovely, but there was just so much to see and we only had two weeks including travelling time. You could spend months here exploring. It was busier than the other side of the country and small villages had plenty of shops compared to the same size ones in the Languedoc which were just sleepy hollows. It was also parched dry as they've been experiencing a drought for quite some time. With no wildflowers to speak of, I hardly saw any butterflies at all - I wasn't expecting much at this time of year but had hoped to see a few, but it wasn't to be. Our first stop in Provence was the town of Avignon which was busy and had quite a vibe which I haven't experienced anywhere in years. I enjoyed it and wished we'd had more than just an overnight stop there and a couple of hours to whizz around the old town. Never mind, Have Moho, Will Travel is my motto though we might have to wild camp to save on the pennies if we keep taking this many trips in her!

On the way down we stopped at a friend's for the night - we met Monika for the first time on a Moho meetup in Spain last September, although we have known each other for years in the virtual world. Our Mohos enjoyed seeing each other as well, and again, I tried to steal Olivia, her darling little dog, but no luck!

Moho meet in the Auvergne - and Monika and me.

Olivia and me.

After Avignon we crossed the beautiful Luberon mountains to the Verdon regional nature park as we'd heard that the gorges there were fantastic. Well wow - it was! I think autumn is probably the best time of year to visit as the colours were amazing, adding to the drama of this amazing scenery.

Mary Moho made to look tiny in the Verdon Gorges.

Verdon Gorges.

Then it was time to hit the coast and we spent a few days around Bormes les Mimosas/Le Lavandou, where the weather was just delightful, no wind and warm and sunny. Just what you need with winter looming!

Oh, the glorious Mediterranean!

At a campsite at Bormes les Mimosas - every pitch had a shaded area like this!

Yup I got my flabby bits out again and went to the beach as we were camped right beside it.

That was the last of the good weather and we headed off to a campsite near Arles where the Mistral was blowing again. For our silver wedding anniversary we did something we haven't done in a long time - we took a bus! We went into Arles for lunch, and had a curry. Haha! We know how to live! We also had a day driving around the Camargue - the birding wasn't great but we got to see loads of flamingos up close, which was something new and interesting. These last couple of photos are from Les Baux de Provence in the Alpilles range between Arles and Marseilles. Les Baux was so interesting (although the wind was horrendous) we didn't get to seeing anywhere else in the Alpilles. Something to do another time!

Keith and Mary Moho at Les Baux de Provence. It looks glorious but the wind was absolutely evil!

Does my bum look big in this?

And here we are, we came back home to a wet rest of autumn and there have been few days where the sun shone all day long since mid July, which is when it seemed like someone switched summer off. Thank goodness for our trip away as we wouldn't have had any Indian Summer if we'd stayed home. Even our Scottish housesitters said that the weather was not dissimilar to Scotland......

View down to the lake with the Liquidambar showing up well on the right.

Last chicken standing - Andrea just after a moult in mid November - now she's looking quite smart but she is the last hen left and I hate that she's all alone, but I won't get any more chickens.

Sooooo, what else to say? Well I don't know if you have got the idea yet that I'm not very happy at home but come to life when we are away..... I have to assume I still associate home with the sick house or something. My doctor doubled my dose of antidepressant this spring and I felt fairly OK all though the summer but fell into a dip again as soon as we got back from this trip to Provence, just like I did last year after returning. I'm back to climbing a mini mountain to get out of bed in the morning and my motto is 'mañana'. I feel like I need a rocket up my non-existant arse to get me going. Anyhow, this is only a part of it, but after spending last winter battling the brambles, ivy and saplings in the woodland yet again, amongst the many other jobs outdoors, we made a decision - we absolutely have to move as it's just all too much for both of us, we're not getting any younger and we originally said we'd give it 10 years and it's been 13. 

However, when we thought about it, there's absolutely nothing tying us to Brittany. We can get British food goodies online which we've been doing lately so no need to take the car over to go food shopping in England any more. I can fly to see my Mum from other airports and ditto for my brother coming to see us. So guess where we are planning to move to? Down south of course! We've always thought it would be too hot, but with aircon and a swimming pool to cool us down in the height of summer, I can't see it being a problem. The benefits will be lots more sunshine in winter (and the rest of the year), plenty of warm days in the early spring and late autumn that we rarely have here in Brittany. Not to mention glorious views, a whole host of new bird and butterfly species and a thousand and one new places to explore on day trips and mini breaks in the Moho.  It's the Pyrenees side of the south of France that we're looking at, the Pyrenees Orientales or the Aude departments. Amongst my wish list which includes a swimming pool is an olive tree in my garden and an oleander hedge! And a much, much smaller, manageable garden.

So the plan is to put our house on the market in the spring and cross fingers we will be moving next year. Now you realise why we are painting...... Whoever buys this house gets ready made compost and leaf mould, plus the bins, water butts, firewood, a ride on mower, and two ducks. What more could you ask for if you want a self sufficientish lifestyle?! :-)

I'll finish off by wishing you all, friends, family and any of my blog readers still out there a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Mandy xx


  1. Loved reading your blog Mandy, sorry that you have been down at times but the move seems to be a good idea, who wouldn't be wanting more sun, we have had snow here in Yorkshire, but now its grey. I am looking forward to getting back out to Brittany in the New Year.

    Take care and have a good Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    1. Hi Ian, nice to hear from you and thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed the blog! I heard about the snow up north but it stayed mild and wet in Brittany, no sign of any snow here. It's going to be mild and wet for Christmas too, just to make a change. :-) Have a great Xmas Ian and talk to you again sometime, soon I hope.

  2. What a lovely Moho holiday filled year! Sorry you're feeling low at the moment, I hate winter too! Good luck when you put the house on the market and how exciting will house hunting be. :-) We're off to Spain for three months from the end of January so are looking forward to some much needed sunshine. Happy Christmas Mandy, and may 2018 see all your dreams come true xx

    1. Hi Sue and thanks for coming by! Your Spanish winter sounds like it'll be wonderful, I hope you will post lots of photos. Have a lovely Christmas in front of the wood burner in the meantime! xx

  3. Sounds exciting.
    Enjoy finding a new place (not just house and garden) to live.
    That exploring across wide options is exhilarating.

    1. Thanks Diana - you've been there and done that recently! I thought you were mad leaving your lovely big mature garden but now I realise you probably were being very sensible indeed. I intend to make the most of the new place!

  4. Thanks for the newsy update, we wish you all the best, love, Doug and Lynn

    1. Hi Doug, thanks for dropping by. Have a lovely Christmas and give Lynn a hug from me. xx

  5. So pleased to read you have had a two year all clear. Wonderful to read about your holidays and adventures this year. The scenery looks so stunning and so jealous of your Swallowtail :)

    So sorry to hear you have been feeling so down - do hope the excitement of house hunting and starting a new chapter will make you feel better. Wishing you good luck with it all and please let us know how you get on.

    Well done on the hawkmoths - to be honest I haven't put out my moth trap this year either - will have to turn over a new leaf next year!

    Have a very Happy Christmas and wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year.

    1. Hi RR and thanks for coming by and reading my monster post! I will of course keep you updated about moving and I'll do occasional blogs about it. I'm keeping this blog and not starting another one.

      Glad I'm not the only one who didn't get into the moths this year! I hope I'll be able to use it when we move, but I don't know if we will be surrounded by neighbours or not, so not sure about the light nuisance.

      Wishing you a great Xmas too and K's pressie arrived which is something you put on your blog, do you remember? I'm not saying anything more in case K reads this! xx

  6. You are an inspiration Mandy and have missed your blogs. Love you my friend

    1. Thanks so much Virgil, you always cheer me up with your lovely comments. xx

  7. You've certainly enjoyed some great times in the Mo Ho, what a brilliant idea to buy it.
    Maybe we'll get to see you in Brittany before the move south, or even in Devon some time.

    Merry Christmas to you and Keith.

    Love Philippa x

    1. Hi Philippa! It's been a while since we talked. I wish I knew when you were coming over as I'd love to meet up. Have a great Christmas and love to Alan. xx

    2. I'll phone you next time we are over, probably not till March as Brittany ferries have stopped most crossings from Plymouth to Roscoff until then! XX

  8. Hi Mandy , Only just read blog now .Bit rude I know.Glad you are enjoying the motorhoming.All the best for 2018 & hope your move south goes to plan . cheers, Mark

    1. Hi Mark and Ruth! Thanks for the Xmas card. I didn't send any but as you have read this then that will do. Hope the family is well and I guess I'll see you occasionally on facebook! Lots of love xx

  9. Thanks for the catchup Mandy.
    Good to see that you are living life to the full and enjoying yourself.
    Lots of interesting scenes, didn't notice any flabby bits though.:)

    1. Hi Roy - Happy New Year! Thanks for commenting and I'm sorry for the delay replying. I haven't been on my big Mac for ages and I prefer replying on this to on my ipad. I'm glad you didn't mention my cellulite. What a gentleman. :-)