“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine.
From mid-July 2014 we are taking a two month family trip to Hong Kong, France and Spain. For hubby it is two months away from his awesome design business (www.publiceye.co.nz) and for me, a semester off uni and a chance to write. At the same time, my dear friend Kath is taking three months away from her amazing PR business (www.beat.net.nz) to live in Wanaka (ski town, South Island of New Zealand) with her hubby Hanz (‘Papa’) and their daughter Coco. For each family it is a chance to spend time together, and to stand still – breathe – and check that life is as it should be – or not.
I’ll miss Kath like chocolate.
We promised to write.
Here are our letters (most recent first):
Wednesday 13th August 2014: Mas Gatell, near Tarragona, Spain
I wonder if for you too, time has taken on a whole new form. At home hours feel like blocks stacked on top of one another to make up a day. Here, a day feels more like a thick pour of golden syrup. We wake late, pour ourselves across a day and pool into bed well after midnight. You wrap yourselves in duvets and woolen socks; we shake off even a sheet at night.
I wonder if you saw the amazing moon a few nights ago. It was huge and yellow, rising up above the grape vines, with a tiny swirl of cloud underlining it to highlight its importance. Jez looked it up and it is the closest the moon has been to the earth since 1930. Imagine the eyes that were alive to see the moon that night…the famous ones like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, and the important ones, like our grandparents, and great-grandparents.
I loved reading about your yoga class. I can just see it – you’d definitely get the giggles, especially when the old farmer lets out a little trumpety trump and doesn’t blink an eyelid. I’m so proud of you, slotting yourself into a life, finding yourself and your family a perfect niche. Has that rascally North wind stayed away? How many days skiing have you got in?
I owe you a big thank you. You reminded me before we left that I might find it ‘challenging’ going from having the girls in daycare three days a week to having them with us twenty-four-seven. With that in mind we asked Margarita and David van Asch (Ruth’s Uncle and Aunt, and our gorgeous hosts) to look into something here for the girls. Yesterday was Georgia and Hazel’s first day at Jigsaw’s, a British kindergarten in Tarragona city. They will only go one day a week, but that is enough for us to have a little break and do some sight-seeing (and shopping!). It is the summer holidays here so there are only six other children, with limited English, but they had an absolute ball. As children do, they found common ground, starting with the songs from Frozen (if I have to listen to “let it gooooo, let it gooooo” one more time…!). How is Coco enjoying daycare?
Jez and I spent the day sightseeing – oh my god the Roman amphitheater ruin in old Tarragona is incredible. It rises up in front of the Mediterranean sea like a movie set, and I could just imagine the aristocracy on their terraces watching the gladiators (Russell Crowe!) emerging from the tunnels to fight whatever hideous beast is scheduled for the day. Tarragona is a fascinating city; having been dominated by the Romans, then the Arabs, then the Christians, its history and architecture layers like a museum-quality liquorice allsort.
We spend most of our days doing a few errands or sight-seeing in the morning, then home to the pool to avoid the afternoon heat. It is gorgeous here; we are twenty minutes north of Tarragona, ten minutes to the beach at Altafulla and two minutes up the road from Salomó. Our little guest-house is attached to David and Margarita’s beautiful stone house that was built in the 14th century, and added to in the 18th century. The crunchy stone terrace runs the entire length of the house, planted with bougainvillea, almonds, figs, and climbing roses. The fields around the house are planted with row after row of grape vines, dissected by narrow road winding up from the main road. Last night we hosted the van Asch’s and their son Jonathan for dinner, what a gorgeous night we had. Along with succulent steak that Jez barbequed, I tried out some of Caro’s recipes, one is on the blog, but the other one you’ll love:
Caro’s Raw Courgette salad
1) Peel raw courgette into ribbons, lengthways and layer vertically on a plate
2) Sprinkle a little parmesan, lemon juice and mint over top
Another layer of courgette, this time horizontal, and more parmesan, lemon juice and mint.
3) Continue pattern until you have enough!
We went to Altafulla Beach yesterday, a long stretch of white every meter of which was dotted with umbrellas, towels and sun-worshipers. Here is what I observed about Spanish beachgoers:
- the smaller the bikini the better
- bikini size not relative to body mass – they’re all small no matter if your tiny or huge
- fringed/tasseled bikini tops on trend this summer
- It is ok to wear the same sundress as your mother
- Only Kiwi and Aussie kids wear rash tops
- It is ok for a man to wear Speedos while riding his motorbike
- Spanish people don’t wear sunhats, preferring to lie on their backs, face and up arms and legs spread wide for maximum sun exposure
- Thus, most Spanish people are brown as gorgeous berries. All over.
Well darling, that is all my news from Spain for now. Time to throw on my togs and swim twenty lengths…
Love you, miss you,
31.07 July Wanaka
I was so excited to read you had launched your blogs, and then reading I heard your voice come through so beautifully. Well done, it really resonates with the reader, and I like the premise of finding happiness.
Paris sounds like it was amazing, I can see and feel the magic, perhaps its on our bucket list to visit later on together as writers and share the journey of glamour, fashion and literature.
A month has passed since we set out on this adventure. I have settled into a routine which includes a bit of work each day. It’s hard to completely switch off with people away and Margi has decided to do Fashion Week, so that has meant a few phone calls and email. However to be honest it feels okay and I am getting better each day at making it a block of time rather than erratic dipping in and out. I talk to the team and Ange once a week – surprisingly balanced.
The snow continues to evade us, despite a storm hanging around the last few days. Listening to the locals you soon work out it is a dire season so far due to warmer temperatures. something to do with winds from the North rather than South. Despite this we have had plenty of adventures; climbing Mt Iron and taking in the spectacular 360 view towards Mt Aspiring and up the Clutha River; explorations along the river bed watching two surfers trying to surf the rapids, the water is that deep blue colour so cold you can almost feel the tips of their fingers turning blue; excitement from all of us when we spot rabbits darting back and forth across the dry tussock.
I’ve found the perfect yoga class a local woman Jill takes it; she reminds me of an old yoga teacher Fran who took a class Hanz and I regularly attended back in Auckland post Coco days. Jill lives about 15 minutes out of town in a wooden barn shaped house with lots of windows. It’s in the heart of the country, surrounded by sheep and horses. A storm rages outside yet all I hear is the rain on the tin roof and the crackle of a warm fire. My eyes rest gently on the mountain vista as I wobble in standing pose. I am far removed from my other life here. The class is small – they’re old school locals there’s something comforting being among strangers who belong in this place; the 75 year old merino farmer who moves through his paces in a quiet and discerning manner, while Billy injured years ago in an accident now in his sixties he works his back bends with a nimbleness that comes from patience and practice, the mother of three who has her ski gear and a packed lunch in the car just in case the weather changes and TC opens. TC is Treble Cone the mountain for the locals, it’s like a religion.
Well my dear this ends my first month, I’ve challenged myself to write every day for August and post an image on my Tumblr. Love the pictures of the glamping on Jeremy’s facebook page – it’s summer and you all look so happy!
Miss you like chocolate (thank you).
25th July, 2014: On the TGV from Paris to Lyon
I can just see you three, bikes strung together like fairy lights, sparkling all the way around Lake Wanaka. I even hear the plink-plink of stones skimming water. Tell Coco the best echoes hide under bridges and come out when you “coo-eeee!”
I’ve changed since I last wrote; I have a new piece of Paris inside of me. A real piece, not just specs gleaned from the pages of all those books we’ve read. I’m desperately sad to be leaving, but elated at all I experienced there. It’s not often you can say something truly exceeds expectations – particularly as I’d held Paris up as a shining light for so long – but it did. Paris was incredible.
True to stereotype, French women are unfailingly chic. I observed them like rare birds and discovered:
- Lipstick – always
- Cigarettes can look glamorous
- Never be seen dead in jandals
- The larger the handbag the better
- Children must be well behaved even at 5pm on the Metro (how do they do that?)
Vis-à-vis, it was obvious we were tourists! But, it didn’t matter, I felt steeped in authentic Paris. I thought of you often and wished I could magic you here to show you the fashion showrooms in the courtyard of our building (I have photos for you), our très chic apartment and the two streets I fell in love with: Rue Tiquetonne and Rue Montorgueil in Les Halles: authentic, gorgeous, cobbled, social, chic. I said to Jez yesterday if all we’d done in Paris was see the Eiffel Tower and drunk café noisettes on Rue Montorgueil, I’d have been happy!
It seems Paris’ creative energy has rubbed off on me – I launched my blog www.lovewordsmusic.com while sitting at the kitchen table at our apartment. Basically it will be about finding happiness, doing the things you love, choosing the right life. I’ll post about things I’m interested in, and I also want to interview people who are living the dream, or who have had a major change in life direction. I’m so excited to be beginning this new journey…I wonder where it will take me?
I wonder how you are feeling about work, and if Beat PR is humming along without its superstar director. I’m sure your team will be doing a great job. Are you checking in with your planned weekly WIPs on Skype?
Ok darling friend, it’s time to get some snacks out for the children (it’s almost 5pm, let those gorgeous rare birds watch the wheels fall off these Kiwi kids) and begin the next adventure – camping in the Loire region at Cosy Camp. Can’t wait.
Au revoir ma cherie,
21 July, 2014: Wanaka
Sounds like you have been having lots of fun in Hong Kong – dancing on tables, my my! Can’t say I’ve been as flamboyant in this little town, however we have been kept busy with friends over for lunch and now Shane, Asher and the girls are here for a week. Coco is happy to have some little friends, although I have sent her off to day-care today so she can make local friends too.
Finally it is snowing. We drove up the mountain about an hour ago but the visibility was really bad so home for the day and will try again tomorrow.
The birds outside the kitchen window are wax eyes not finches, beautiful little things. We’ve hired bikes and with a pole between Hanz and Coco’s bikes we can make our way around the Lake. It is so serene with crystal clear water. A favorite pass time is throwing handful of stones into the water and listening to the different splashes we all make. The small things make us smile. We listen to the echo of our laughter; a new experience for the young one who is trying to work out where echo lives.
I think you are about to embark on stage two, travel safe.
Love you xx Kath
20th July, 2014: Hong Kong
How are you darling friend? We are off to Ocean Park theme park today; it sits high above the harbour, across the water from where we are staying in Repulse Bay. Georgia desperately standing on tip-toes to measure herself and meet the 120cm height requirement for roller-coaster (112cm).
Very quiet day yesterday after night out at Mama San restaurant in Soho (tres chic, soft shelled crab, chai-tea-infused chocolate mousse…) and then Stockton cocktail bar (dark wood, leather chairs, one way mirrors in the loos), followed by a visit to the extremely UN-chic Lan Kwai Fong bar Al’s Diner where we (uh-hem) danced on the tables and had jelly vodka shots out of shot glasses and then…gulp…out of large plastic syringes. Classy. I got a table-dancing injury, a big graze on my leg, but that is the cost of such shenanigans. We thought we were amazing!
Righto, off to the pool before Ocean Park.
Love, Caroline xxx
18th July, 2014: Wanaka
Caroline, to you my friend,
Thank you for starting us off. It sounds like you are settling into your journey taking in all the senses and relaxing with family after your long flight.
Reading your words and vivid description made me realise how much I have missed in the last couple of weeks. Every day I see my beautiful surrounds, snow-capped mountains, the beautiful calm of the lake in winter, blue skies that stretch far and beyond, a postcard in the making but it is only now I am starting to really appreciate it and find a rhythm that blends, family, work, holiday and play.
The first few days were so beneath my expectations with Hanz being ill and Coco not in day-care. I felt torn and anxious, wondering what was in it for me. Yet when I looked out across the Lake all I saw was beauty and I had to scold myself for being so ungrateful. It has taken me time to shed the skin of Auckland, I hadn’t realised the wound up ball of expectation and emotion I was carrying with me.
The car journey down was long and wet. Winding through the North Island was bleak, rural NZ is far from prosperous. Run down farm buildings, many derelict and abandoned are scattered along State Highway 1. The only bright thing in a lot of these rural outposts are the flowers in the cemeteries. Every place has a cemetery even if the local dairy, petrol station and pub have closed. I said goodbye to my family home in Christchurch after 45 years. I held Mum close for that final good bye. The house sold at auction to a Chinese family, such a relief that in a city that has suffered so much destruction and demolition from the earthquakes, our family home will not be subject to cranes and developers.
We are finding our place in this small town – where to get a decent coffee – Chop Chop, who sells the best veges, and off course the dinosaur park where Coco stares at other kids bemoaning the fact she still doesn’t have any friends. Day-care has been a welcome reprieve from adult company.
I am most happy when we are skiing, although the snow is sparse, churned up by endless school holiday crowds. I never tire of blue sky days but I would welcome a big storm, it is winter and without snow the skiing is not much fun. On days we don’t ski I have been walking around the Lake. If I get up early I can watch the mist hovering over the Lake, sunlight trying to break through the clouds, golden tips of weeping willows, icicles hanging from trees, and a layer of white covers the ground. A brisk pace keeps me warm and I end the session with a five minute mediation, my aim is to get to ten minutes without any voices in my head.
Despite there not being a lot of snow it is incredibly cold – it’s fresh and crisp, ice and frost linger all day where the sun can’t reach. The tree outside our kitchen window is home to fantails and finches, even on cold mornings they are there watching and twittering. You don’t see birds in the city the way you do here.
So friend I am getting closer to that peace. I will tell you more in days to come.
Travel safe – I miss you
17th July, 2014: Hong Kong
My Dear Friend Kath,