… what it would be like living with a whirlwind that could be likened to the cartooned Tasmanian Devil, I can now give you a detailed description! Lessons can be learned from my beloved daughter…


On the day of her arrival, I was taking my time getting ready to go to the airport in the belief that she was landing between 11:00 and 12:00. Just to be sure, I checked the schedule of arrivals only to discover that she was due for touchdown at around 10:00! The airport is a good 90 minutes steady driving from me, if one is lucky. This day turned out to be a good-traffic-day. However, I was slightly thrown off balance by my stupidity not to have checked earlier.

Waiting at the barrier for her to emerge, she managed to surprise me by coming from a completely different direction! I never realised there was a third exit… Did I mention something about being thrown off balance?

Well, another surprise was waiting for me: she had arranged to view a rental property that afternoon at 14:30 … barely enough time to get home and have some lunch! The property turned out to be The One as it ticked all the boxes – the agreement was signed within a week.

47b5e0ed936e8cc42dce3fa39bc0e27fHere’s the funny part: it is located in the village that I have moved out of in October last year! No, not Kamares – Tala, which is the greater village. Up on the hill above the amphitheatre is where she will watch sunsets to her heart’s content. It’s a view to die for!

A view to die for

I knew Jo was a woman of action but I never realised that action looked quite like that! Fifteen days after landing in her adopted country, every duck is sitting in its allocated place in the row: water, electricity, poolman, immigration, bank, car, make-shift filming studio, and dining-room suite – all ticked. The inside of the villa will be painted before her furniture arrives from South Africa – unpacking that will be fun! My list probably skims the top of what she has achieved over this fortnight. Yes, I’m a very proud mother.

And speaking of ducks, she has really taken to Cyprus living like the proverbial duck to water. She and my landlady have a lot in common in that Fanula used to be a fashion designer and they talk needlework as if they have known each other for years! One of the miraculous things where I live is that as soon as you think you about preparing a meal, the food walks in the door… yes, almost daily! We have reciprocated a bit by inviting Fanula and her family to lunch last Sunday (‘our’ Easter) – dining on bobotie, yellow rice with raisins, bean stew (boontjie bredie) and cinnamon pumpkin, all straight from a South African kitchen! They loved it! And we didn’t take any photographs…

This weekend we will join them for their Easter Sunday lunch – the Orthodox Easter is a week later than the Latin one this year. This weekend is also the Flower Festival and Jo experienced it first-hand at the Geriskipou church. She was reprimanded for folding her legs in church! Apparently, it is a No-No as the Priest explained – crossing the legs in church is like making a mockery of the Cross. Or something like that!


Well, she made friends as the Priest and his wife engaged in a long conversation when they heard she was from South Africa.

The days in Cyprus are lengthening and the temperatures rising – summer is coming! We are entering a strange ‘era’, my daughter and I. We have reached a stage where we do not have a single living thing depending on us for anything. Whatever we do and offer now is not out of duty or because we are responsible, but purely out of love and compassion. Isn’t that just wonderful? For the first time in our lives we could get in a car and drive off into the middle distance, go for walks in the forest or jump on a boat without looking or reporting back, or asking permission.  I still find it difficult to stretch a lunch or dinner out for five hours but I now remind myself that there is no reason not to… The Moment is everything!

It is quite weird… just Being. I bit like being a Hippy…


Of course, we do have things to do… I still do my Cyprus Open Studios organising and Jo will continue her online teaching business; filming will resume shortly!

For interest’s sake, please have a look at www.cyprusopenstudios.com and www.sewfabulous.co.za

Until next time, stay safe!



A Tribal Gathering

This has been coming for a while… First, my computer crashed so badly that I lost some precious images and then the Oz ‘flu virus struck, smacking me so hard I had no energy! However, here we are… at last!

In July 2016, I travelled with my small and intimate tribe on the Canal Du Midi in France as well as to a few other places. It was an unforgettable experience during which we got to know each other like never before. Remember, guys?

Plans for the future were moulded and over the following year, those plans were honed and polished.

One of those plans was to visit my extended tribe in South Africa for Christmas 2017. Goodness, I never realised just how extended the tribe has become! What a marvellous experience to see little ones who are growing up fast, young ones who have chosen their life partners and the elders imparting wisdom and offering support where necessary. I am so proud to be a part of my own tribe as well as my adopted tribes, the Mountany and Erasmus clans. Long may we all live!

The Christmas gathering happened over three days and my own and I encamped at a country lodge and spa called Leeuwenhof, travelling to the different family farms on the three days. What a marvellous experience! The Bush was lush and green and rain fell in abundance for which every farmer and his wife were enormously grateful. And we all got to know each other even better! How blessed I am.

Next on the agenda was the gathering of the Volschenk clan with extended families on New Year ’s Day with another opportunity to see family members growing up, growing strong and growing old. My niece and her husband decided to treat us all to a little taste of the Cape with a Snoek BBQ – called a ‘braai’ in South Africa. I’ve never been keen on Snoek because of all those bones, but this time Denis taught me how to eat the fish: with fingers!

On New Year’s Day we had a really good lunch at a Greek Taverna in Pretoria… yes, had to keep the Greek/Cypriot tradition going! And the company was invigorating as well. It was with a tear or two that we said our farewells; I was to return to my adopted country two days later.

Back in Cyprus, winter was in full force… actually still is! However, spring is entering the stage with the most fabulous display of wild flowers you can imagine. Just have a look at this one:

Charles Weare image:27971702_10156447392844276_1229255449663909716_n

Somehow, 2017 and all its trials and tribulations suddenly caught up with me about a month ago… started feeling off colour and listless. All that studio space and no energy to paint! The listlessness developed into bronchitis… the third time since I came to Cyprus! However, good medical attention has got me to the point where I can actually catch up with this blog! The previous time I got bronchitis was when I was exposed to radiation pollution in Phuket and thanks to my wonderful homeopathic genius friend, I shook it off quite quickly. Jennifer, we need to talk!

Some of you might know that my passion (and purpose!) in life is to promote art and artists – been doing that since the early 1990s. My baby now is Cyprus Open Studios (COS) and registration for this year’s October event opens in just a few days… 1 March! We are entering our third year and officially, I am a volunteer! They say no one puts more into a project than those who are passionate about it! Well, that’s me…

The next Big Thing I am looking forward to is my beloved daughter joining me here in Cyprus on a permanent basis! Yesss! It looks like late-March will be A Day:  Arrival – yippee!

Going to try something here – hope it works: click here for some Cyprus therapy… I stole it from her…

Until next time, best wishes for a fabulous 2018.






Ever since I can remember, I have always had this feeling of searching for something that is just out of reach, just around the next corner, almost in touching distance but not quite there… Very often I would get this feeling of being on the brink of a huge discovery, accompanied by an inexplicable sense of excitement.  If only I knew what it was that I was looking for!

And then one day, it happened!  I stumbled over the pot of gold without first realising what it was, blinded by the light of the rainbow…


Since March 2001, I have lived a contented life up in the hills of Tala. Ups and downs abounded, but we were where we wanted to be and we had each other. In 2012, when Thor and Freya fetched Donald to Valhalla, paradise was lost for me. Day after day I wondered what my next move should be, until February 2017 when I decided it was time to tidy up my affairs and come to terms with a new lifestyle. The property was sold and in mid-October I moved to the real Cyprus, amongst real Cypriots in a place called Anavargos, a ‘suburb’ of the greater Paphos. Most of the ‘suburbs’ these days used to be proper villages before they merged into one big metropolis over time. However, the spirit of the villages prevailed and I was one of the luckiest people to have landed amongst terrific neighbours, with a landlady who has wings. Apparently, her name, Fanula, means ‘light’ or ‘lamp’…

The move went well and the unpacking took weeks… It was only yesterday afternoon that the last piece of furniture was stood in its allocated place. I still need soft furnishings and a few finishing touches like lamps and lampshades, curtains and blinds… but, it is done!

Oh, I also have a flat roof where real chilling can be done in summer… when the time comes, I shall update with images.

I now have a studio space that I don’t want to leave; every evening, I spend the last few minutes before going to bed in that space, just staring at the lights of the city stretching out in front of me. Waking up in the morning, my view is of the sea beyond my studio – what more can I ask for?

Drawbacks? The water tanks on the roofs between me and the sea! Unfortunately, it is ‘a thing’ we all have to live with. I still do not see the purpose of these storage tanks as we have a perfectly good mains water supply.

The other thing that I could call a drawback is the very tight space of my undercover parking; centimetre by centimetre reversing into it is the only way – and then you have to remember to be able to open your door! However, the other night when we had a hailstorm, I was grateful that my precious chariot was protected.


But speaking of my searching… It was a few days ago whilst sipping a cuppa in my new paradise, that I suddenly realised that I HAD ARRIVED.  I have found that very elusive thing that was always out of my reach, around the next corner, or somewhere… That pot of gold comes down to a single word: ENOUGH.

I have become the person I have always wanted to be – maintenance continuing! But, I am enough.  My needs are small – I have enough.

And here’s the funny thing:  My neighbours keep on feeding me! Apparently, this is also a very Cypriot thing of which I was not aware… However, I have not yet given enough! I need to cook and bake and share as it feels rotten to give back empty containers…

As soon as I have posted this, I shall get on with it and become a good neighbour myself!


I do feel as if I need to make a real effort to integrate. I live in a cul-de-sac and everyone knows everyone else. The one problem – for me – is that they all speak Greek! I have already registered with the people who give free online lessons and this will be put to full use early in 2018! Meanwhile, I can learn the basics (again) such as the alphabet and learning to count. I started a course on Rosetta Stone ages ago, but when we were planning to move to the UK in the beginning of 2012, that came to an abrupt end… duh! Now I have to start all over again.

The plan is to have one giant street party outside my house sometime in April-ish and invite the whole street! I should count the houses… but my one neighbour feeds 10 people every day!!! It’s also a Cypriot thing to feed your children and look after your grandchildren when the parents go to work.

Until we meet again in my next post, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all Peace, Love, Health and Happiness over this Festive Season and for the future.


Merry Christmas!

Here are a few images of my “Paradise Found”  –   that little pot of gold, which is quite enough!

A place to chill, a place to work and panels to divide the space in two…

Watch this space as the work that will be done here, will be awesome! I know enough… Well, perhaps not – learning never stops!



THE DUSTY CAVE … Aladdin’s/Maria’s

Someone told me the other day that when she looked at the contents of the removals van that transported her ‘stuff’, the thought that occurred was, ‘How obscene for one person to own so much!’. Well, that is exactly how I feel right now about the ‘stuff’ in my home – it is obscene for one person to own this much!

Funny thing is, the packers included bags of rubbish that were intended to be binned! Lesson: be careful with instructions – saying that ‘everything in this room must be packed’ was taken literally!

I was truly shocked to discover the cache of videos (tapes!) that we collected over many years. In fact, I thought I had sorted all the ones I didn’t want to keep years ago! I think I did, but never got rid of them… and they came along for the ride. And I don’t even have a VCR player anymore… what does one do with these things now that DVDs and other media players are available? There are quite a few I wish to convert and have been told that I can buy a machine that would do that, but what about the ones I do not want to keep or convert? Suggestions?

 20171028_100206  Insane, right?

The other side of abundance may well become a problem… My landlady is kindness personified and this is expressed, mainly, through the need to feed me! She was devastated when she found out that I was a pechatarian – could not understand why! (I’m a seafood-eating vegetarian). The problem that I foresee is that, over the last year due to all kinds of influences, my weight has gone up a bit, especially around the tum and bum areas. How does one say no to kindness? When does kindness become intrusive? I certainly need to eat less rather than more! Wasted food is a sin and if I gave it away – and she found out – how awful would that be!

Not only my landlady, but also my neighbour on the other side threatens over-abundance too! The third evening here, at 9.30 pm she knocked on my kitchen window to bring me oranges and lemons from her garden… and that was her way to have a chat about family matters! And that tells you that closed doors do not make a difference.

It is interesting to see a completely different side of Cyprus. And it occurred to me that, since we moved here in 2001, we have lived in Cyprus but we have not live IN Cyprus. Now that I have moved out of the expat enclave where we were seduced to buy our custom-built villa – which I loved! – I am seeing a whole new side of this Island of Love. This has also reinforced the fact that I need to speak Greek in order to truly integrate; it is one of the richest languages on the planet… and also one of the most difficult to learn! One thing I do know: if I have lived in this kind of environment from the beginning, I would have been fluent in Greek by now.

The other thing that I have a ‘newness’ about is the closeness of neighbours, in distance and in presence. This is a very Cypriot residential area where I live in a cul-de-sac and children play ball in the street. Afternoons can be noisy, but it’s ‘good noise’! About 150 yards from me is a lovely little park where I have noticed children play fearlessly. I walked through it when they were all at school… And right next-door is the sweetest little church where candles burn almost all the time.


20171027_102957-1   candles

Backing onto the end of my cul-de-sac is the General Hospital and at the other end, the main post office. Next to the post office is one of the best bakeries in Paphos! Oh, what have I done!

When I was younger, there was a time when my first husband and I bought, restored and sold properties and whilst we were doing the work – part-time – we lived in the houses. That meant a lot of moving which, somehow, I took in my stride.

This time, however, it feels like I’ve only started on the foothills of Mount Everest… age has a lot to do with it and I’m not talking about the age of that mountain!

In the course of this last year’s activities of putting my home on the market, being ‘inspected’ by potential buyers, eventually making the decision to sell and then the Big Move PLUS organising the Cyprus Open Studios event which takes place each October, things got a bit out of hand… I’m not even mentioning the financial side of things!

However, a friend asked me the other day how my meditation practice was going. Ha! That shook the foundations of my Being! I have SO lost the plot. But, it is strange how The Force speaks to you when you need it… Amongst many, many, many magazines which I was going to turf out but then decided against, I came across a few issues of “Namasté” from around 2003/2004. Well, say no more… As from today, I am back on track as my journey continues. I have forgotten how to breathe but my memory has been jogged and things will change from now on.

New beginnings, new everything… with a few antiques thrown in, courtesy of my Donald!

I was fortunate to spend time with my brother and his wife, Vollie and Rita, who came visiting and we spent one morning dancing on the waves… Dankie vir julle kuier!!!

This was just a little catch-up as I haven’t been active on my blog for yonks. From now on, I’m going to attempt a weekly – says she – contribution to tell you a little more about ‘real’ life in Cyprus!

Incidentally, weekends for Cypriots mean one thing: Family! We will seriously have to rethink our open studios policy…

Until next time, Namasté!

f6e73401a1430c9d71cca63768707dad--namaste-art-namaste-yogaThis old artist is not moving for a while…

How things change…

In my last blog post I said I was hoping to report back before Christmas… Well, I have a few moments now to reflect and share and Christmas is still 4 months away. Oh, I will be spending Christmas and New Year’s in South Africa – might just see you around!

The Gallery in Tala village, where I was hoping to move to from here, has fallen flat on its face. The owner did not want to sign an agreement, nor have my name on the utility bills. But the cherry on top was when he asked for a year’s rent in advance… Nuts I am not!

So, my gorgeous home – villa, as they are called here – is now sold although I’m still waiting for the money to come forth.


The hold-up is a tax clearance certificate which is a story I shall not bore you with. It’s all under control between my lawyer and accountant, which means I have to wait; a non-activity which drives me just a little crazy. However, taking all things into consideration, they are slotting into place, albeit slower than expected. August is of course holiday month in Europe and just about every business closes… including people at the tax office taking their annual breaks! Patience is not one of my strong points but I’m sure learning how to take a deep breath.

I managed to find alternative accommodation as from October and will make the big move on the 17th. It is also a 4-bedroomed home, this time on one level – bungalow, as they are called in Europe – with the possibility to create a stunning roof garden as the garden itself is miniscule! I love rooftop gardens and this one has a sea-view!!

Anavargos     The roof garden to be  It looks small from the outside but it’s actually rather spacious. The rooftop is ready to be transformed…

There is also a studio space to die for, newly renovated… and the rental is much less than The Gallery wanted. This new place is in a village called Anavargos; these days villages are more like suburbs as “progress” has caused a building explosion over the years. My landlady is also an artist as well as a retired fashion designer… she paints icons at present, and beautiful they are too.

My daughter, Jo, has decided to relocate to Cyprus early in 2018, but we will not be sharing accommodation. I will keep you updated as long as you click on the FOLLOW button so that you get automatic notifications when I post again.

She has fallen in love with a particular area called Geroskipou and intends to rent a small apartment near the beach as she is a sun and water baby extraordinaire! She’s just not very keen on European winters, but we all adapt. She has just spent the hottest July we’ve had in 30 years over here and loved every minute, thanks to the pool and the sea…

Marvellous news is that my beloved brother and his wife will be spending almost 3 weeks with me in September! Can’t wait to show them around. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look at a few things Cyprus has to offer:


The organising of Cyprus Open Studios is progressing well and the catalogue is almost ready to go to  the printers. What a lot of work – but I think it’s worth every effort. We’re in our second year now and we are planning on expanding the scope next year. Have a look at our website to see what it’s all about: www.cyprusopenstudios.com 

Yes, I will be turning 73 in September but that doesn’t mean I have to sit on my porch and twiddle my thumbs – there is still so much I want to do in this lifetime! Oh, the new place has a lovely porch… and it’s in a cul-de-sac, which means no through traffic! Great!

The porch

You can just imagine a swing-seat on that porch, can’t you! Oh, the possibilities…

My beloved Jessica is almost 12 years old and is beginning to show signs of aging.

JessHere she is, enjoying a chicken supper while her right leg is resting on an ice-pack; inflammation of the elbow joint… starting medication in the morning. Poor baby!

Well, I think that has brought you all up to date with the happenings in Cyprus. We are also recording record tourist figures and by the end of the season, we will have catered for some 10-million visitors! The population of the island is less than that! This is, of course, due to the other choice places around the Mediterranean becoming unsafe to visit… I must say, the hospitality and catering people are doing a wonderful job!

Till next time, take care and may your God be with you.


Just to give you a taste of what our summer is about:  http://in-cyprus.com/hot-holiday-weather-to-continue-over-the-weekend/

P.S. I always remember, after posting, the things I should have included…




Into the Village…

It’s a long time since I last posted on my blog. I’m not going to apologise although I know you missed me… I’ve missed you too!

I have been extremely busy since returning from France where I travelled with my tribe in July 2016. It feels like a lifetime ago! Yet, the memories are so vivid, and the many images  we all captured, revive precious moments.

Since then there were chaotic preparations for the Cyprus Open Studios event in October of which I am the primary organiser. Silly, isn’t it? I could be sitting in the sun, reading or painting or gardening or just do another nothing… but those who know me better, will testify that I’m not a thumb-roller. The grey cells always need something to keep them on their toes!

Here are a few shots of happy faces in my home during open studios last year:

My two partners and I then had our review meeting in November and what blew our socks off was that there wasn’t a single complaint! It was just that little bit spooky as it felt unreal… We are hoping to repeat the process in October 2017, but it really is hard work.

We’ve sent the website for plastic surgery and it came back with a brand new face – much improved from the old one! The lucky thing was I didn’t need to learn many new tricks and the logistics from last year worked just beautifully. So, with everything in place, we are now nearing the deadline for this year’s registration: 30 April which we will probably extend for a month… knowing how the Cypriot mind works! However, registration is a bit slow this year…

Besides all the above, last February I had decided to put my gorgeous villa on the market. It was a difficult decision to make as we planned every tile in the house and every plant in the garden long before we moved in during March 2001. Many, many memories were made here and we mixed a load of good with some shitty bad – and in the end, it was still hard to Let Go. However, the market was very slow and over the year I had only 5 or 6 viewings! I reconciled myself with the fact that whenever the time was right, things would happen…  BUT, in my heart of hearts, I just hadn’t reached the stage where I truly could let go.

Something I had/have to get over:

Then, about three weeks ago, I came to realise that it was time to move forward and the thought that popped up was that I could honestly be happy anywhere I lived. It didn’t depend on a piece of earth and what was created on it. But oh, the knowledge that if I moved away from here, I wouldn’t be able to say hello to fellow dog-walkers every evening, wave at passers-by as they wave hello from their cars, everyone knowing everyone else. It is something I never really had in South Africa; on the farm where I grew up, yes – everyone knew everyone’s business! But in Johannesburg, you cowered behind your high walls and in the end, dared not walk your dog in the streets in case you were being watched… Anyway, water under that bridge.

On Monday, the 3rd of April I signed an Agreement of Sale and on Friday received the non-refundable deposit. The strangest thing is that the developers bought the property back at just under the asking price. Just before the offer came in, I was actually contemplating whether to bring the price down… but then it happened all by itself.

If you have ever heard of the Law of Attraction, you will know that this is how it works.

When I first put the house on the market, I approached the owner of a property in the heart of our village of Tala to see if he would perchance consider letting to me once I had sold mine. Their home had been on the market for yonks! I explained that I couldn’t give any solid dates as it all depended on the sale of this one. This place in the village is well-known and has been used as a gallery and wine bar for years – I exhibited there one year. I fell in love with the feel and the look of the place – it’s an old village house, 4-bedroomed with a magical garden. It is about 50 yards off the village square which has just now been refurbished and is rather stunning.

Long story short – the day I signed the agreement of sale, I telephoned Andreas to find out if the property would still be available for rent. He needed time to think, he said. I was not in a hurry as the developers are letting me stay on here until 31 October – after the open studios event. But, I still fancied that property! And Andreas phoned back a couple of days later and we orally agreed that I would move in effectively on 1 October 2017… Told you I know how the Cypriot mind works; they need leeway in case of “unexpected delays”. In Cyprus, those are abundant!

Crazy old woman, am I?  I’m trying to down-size and here I’m going to rent a property with 4 bedrooms, gallery space and a built-in bar! It used to operate as a restaurant/gallery/wine bar so the kitchen has a magnificent gas cooker, which I don’t think I’ll be using much… on the square there are many excellent eating places!

The one thing that would perhaps get me down is the church bell… it’s CLOSE! Just across the square… but I’m signing for 2 years only with an option to extend. The idea is to host small events such as poetry readings, musical soirees, art discussions, and so forth in the fabulous space available. Yes, at 72.5 I might be regarded as a crazy old woman… but I feel good about it, crazy or not. They say 70 is the new 50…

And a few shots taken over several years of The Gallery:

I think that will keep you happy for a while… this last batch is where I’m (hopefully) going to live for a while as from October… je ne regrette rien!

I hope to update you by Christmas!


Travels with My Tribe

Unbelievably, it is almost a month since my return from my travels with my tribe. The whole thing was dreamed up by my beloved daughter, Joey, almost a year ago. Some years ago, we went on a canal boat vacation in France and the less said about that trip, the better! The actual boating experience was fabulous but we, as individuals, were having our own private wars within. These things tend to rub off even if we think they don’t! So, we will not mention that again…

However, because the actual boating experience was good, Joey suggested that we did it again. This time, she said, let’s do the Canal du Midi in Southern France. Well, this was something I have wanted to do for yonks! She was on! She started making the enquiries, and eventually the route was determined and the boat booked. It was to be a whopping 60-footer with three cabins for five passengers, each with their own bathroom. It was luxury personified… She then went ahead and booked the rest of the vacation which was to include three nights in Marseilles and three nights in Cannes after disembarkation at Castelnaudery.  We started in Homps – see the map here

And then came the shocker! We were losing one of our party due to unforeseen circumstances. The boating people were not interested in down-sizing the boat; it was booked and that was that. So, we decided we were going to do the 71 kilometres with 44 locks with just the four of us – how brave we were!

Our boat

Let me tell you something: It was magnificent!

I didn’t think that a family with volatile temperaments and internal demons lurking could come together in a fairly confined space and do what we did. I am SO proud of My Tribe and yes, Brittany Haantjes is certainly included in My Tribe! First lunch




Brit and SWE – our first lunch on board.

Being a child of the 40s, the one thing that astounded me was how we all found each other at various points during this vacation! Technology has come a long way from when we had to crank telephones in telephone kiosks, insert money to talk and unfold paper maps to find our way! But, when technology plays silly b*ggers, it can cause problems … like buying a SIM card that you can’t make work! But being resilient and inventive, we fixed everything.

I flew from Cyprus, Joey, Schalk-Willem and Brittany flew from South Africa but on different flights and all found each other! Joey and I spent our first night in an airport hotel in Paris, catching the TGV to Carcassonne early the following morning. A long and fairly boring journey, changing over in Bordeaux which was a bit messy as they were renovating the station, with scaffolding and netting everywhere! Hard to see signage!! Joey and I never stopped talking as we haven’t seen each in yonks.

Happy faces Never liked close-ups …. but these are happy faces!

In Carcassonne we grabbed a taxi to our first hotel in Floure. What a magnificent hotel! The Chateaux de Floure which is also known as the Relais de Silence – it was a small monastery once. Best to see for yourselves:

Hotel de Floure

And here

Next morning, Gerry, the owner (we think) drove us to Homps to board the boat. It again astounded me that we rendezvoused without problems – mobile phones… wow!

Getting to know our boat

Freddy, our very Scottish instructor, took us through our paces as we all needed to know how the boat worked in case one of us became incapacitated… We were warned about head bumping on low bridges, falling in the water at the locks and all sorts of other potential disasters! Freddy got a bit annoyed with us when we interrupted with questions as it upset his flow. In the end, anyone of us could be the captain… well, maybe! After that, we had a lovely lunch under a vine and then we found ourselves a supermarket and stocked up with provisions.

Day 1 – on the boat

We set off up-river and we all realised it was not going to be a doddle – it was extremely hard work whilst we were sorting out how things were supposed to be done. We arrived at our first overnight stop just 15 minutes too late to go through the lock – they never told us that you had to be at a lock 30 minutes before closing time to be let through! It takes a while to get through…

We cleaned up, put on pretty dresses and SWE (Schalk-Willem) also scrubbed up really well. Off we trotted to a restaurant that was recommended and that we took the trouble to book. We had to walk through a freshly-mown wheat field and up a little hill to get to it and it was all pretty gorgeous … until we were attacked – YES, attacked – by the most enormous number of mosquitoes I’ve ever seen! We ran! And when we got to the restaurant we were not allowed to sit indoors … away from the biters! SWE and Joey dashed back to the boat to get repellent and apart from having to fight their way through the mossies, were attacked by a dog on the way! In the end, we were reluctantly allowed to sit indoors. What was served did not look a bit like the pictures on the menu either! Not a restaurant to be recommended as far as we were concerned: Ô fil de l’Ö … it is just before the down-river lock at Marseillettes – remember that! Don’t go there…

We fell into bed, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves for even getting this far! Oh, we had a long way to go!

Day 2 – on the boat

Having had the experience of arriving late for a lock, we decided that we should make an early start in the morning. The locks open at 09.00hrs and close at 17.00hrs AND close for lunch between 13.00hrs and 14.30hrs … and a certain distance had to be completed during each day in order to get the boat to its destination on the final day.

Due to a few miscalculations with getting all hands on deck, we were so distracted that we didn’t realise we had … left the bimini (canopy) up! As Joey negotiated the entrance to the lock and SWE and I were preparing for the rope throwing and fastening to Brittany who was on shore, we heard an awful sound! Where Joey got the presence of mind from to immediately put the boat in reverse, I will never know! BUT we came to an almost immediate stop and had to reverse out again – the bimini had to be folded away as best we could. Phew! What a wake-up call that was! If it were not for the bimini, my head would certainly have had a huge bump on it as I was busy sorting out my rope and wasn’t prepared to duck! The bridge was fairly low… We learn very quickly!

That evening we were pretty subdued as we all felt responsible for the mishap. However, when we moored for the night, we discovered that we could still use the bimini with a few manipulations – it wasn’t a total disaster after all.

Day 3 – on the boat

The indications on the dashboard showed that the engine was overheating when we were cruising at the recommended speed needed to charge the generator. There also seemed to be a loss of power… We telephoned ahead and Le Boat sent out a mechanic to meet us along the way to sort out the problem(s). Very impressive!

We made Trebes for lunch and sorted out my modem that wasn’t working. Lunch was had at a charming back street restaurant called Le Pasteur before pushing on towards Carcassonne where we had decided to spend two nights in order to take in the famous sights.

Day 4 – on the boat

As I now had a working modem I decided to get my external hard drive out of the safe and do some work while the others took various forms of me-time. Another shocker! The safe wouldn’t open! The ONLY backup that I’ve been using for my laptop was not available… Well, Le Boat people decided that the only way to get round the problem was to break out the safe and break it open forcefully! This was something to see… literally safe cracking! In the end, they got my small box of travel jewellery and the drive out and I could breathe easy again, now sans safe…

With a lighter heart I sat down to start work and … the hard drive did not register on my laptop… On closer inspection, I could see that the safe crackers must’ve accidentally given the hard drive a side swipe – there was slight damage and it appeared as if the housing was opened up… It was the only back up I had for ALL my files, including all the work I had done for Cyprus Open Studios!!! My heart lay in tatters on the floor…

In the afternoon, Joey and I sat down and plotted our course forward. We still had 40 kms to go in three days, which meant we had to travel 13.3333 kms per day with a huge number of locks to negotiate. It was quite an exercise and made us feel like true explorers! We also planned the menus for the three days as we realised there wouldn’t be time to stop for lunches.

After that, we went and stocked up our supplies and then went out to a Chinese meal.

Day 5 – on the boat

SWE had somehow become the leader of the band and we cast off on schedule and made good time as there suddenly was hardly any traffic! He was quite expert at handling the boat as all those video games trained him well… I call him my Last Star Fighter now!Last Star Fighter

We were in two minds about stopping at the designated mooring for the night as we were suddenly ahead of schedule… We decided to stay and take a walk to the nearby village and made it as far as the cemetery! It was fascinating!!

In the afternoon we were entertained by the local boys who used the bridge to dive from into the canal. Well, we were horrified as the water in that canal is certainly NOT clean! The boats all ‘mash’ their refuse (all of it!) and spits it out into the water. Yikes!!! We certainly didn’t feel like dipping a toe in that!

Boys diving

While the sun still shone, we put up the bimini and prepared for our evening BBQ on board. What we had forgotten to buy were candles as it got quite dark after sunset. The mobile phones did the job again – wonderfully! Great evening under the stars and the food was outstanding! Here is some of what went on the barbie:BBQ on board





Dinning by mobile light

But then we realised that we would have to pack up quick as a storm was moving in… We made it inside and – oh, dear! – left the bimini up!

During the night, as the storm raged on and the wind blew, I heard creaking noises and assumed they came from the trees on the shore. We slept.

Day 6 – on the boat

We had the luxury of sleeping in a bit and when we wanted to set off at 10.00hrs as agreed, we discovered that during the storm, the bimini had slipped sideways as the rain filled one of the hollows between bars. It was now hanging over the side of the boat, making it impossible to go through any lock!The water-logged bimini

Team-work did it again and we managed to bail out the water and salvage the bimini to such an extent that we could move it right out of the way and tie it up on the front of the deck upstairs where all the steering was done from. Now we were really depressed about this darn bimini as it would obviously have to be replaced with us carrying the cost…

We still made good time and had lunch just before the last lock of the day. When they re-opened after lunch at 14.30hrs, we were through and got to our designated mooring at Villepinte around 15.00hrs. Our planning was paying off! After resting, we set off to the village to see if we could find some wine only to discover that the village had closed for the weekend… alas, no wine to be bought but we still had some in stock for the evening!

A game of Truth or Dare ended a bit disastrously but at the end of the day, we were all back in balance again – sort of. We have learned to ‘work’ with each other in a most wonderful way.

Day 7 – on the boat … our last!

This day was expected to be tough as we had 6 single, 1 triple, 1 double and 1 quadruple locks to go through over a distance of 11 kms before arriving at Castelnaudery, our final destination. It was agreed that we had to leave at 08.00hrs latest … and we did! Not too good planning … the first lock was much closer than calculated and we had to hang ten, waiting for it to open. Amazingly there was hardly any other traffic on the canal… two boats and a rubber duck with us and one or two boats coming down river. We made excellent time and decided to have lunch below the quadruple, which we all dreaded.

We had such fun watching newbies trying to handle this dreaded quadruple lock on their way down while we were waiting … it was hilarious! Were we like that when we started? Absolutely!

The quadruple lock  Newbies

The staircase…  and the newbies at the top…

When it was our turn to go up, the audience was still in attendance and we gave a demonstration of how it should be done … and got applause! We felt really chuffed with ourselves and there was nothing wrong with feeling very proud of what we had achieved! After we parked – expertly, of course – we cleaned the boat, rested and put on pretty dresses again.

That evening we ate at a restaurant run by a man and his partner from Senegal – it was the best sea bass I have EVER had! The restaurant was simply outstanding. A brilliant way to celebrate our Canal du Midi experience.

It was a trip of a lifetime!

I was going to continue here with the rest of the travelogue, but I think you’ve probably had enough! Suffice it to say that the 3 nights in Marseilles and the 3 nights in Cannes were equally fabulous and I have come to know my family a whole lot better than ever before. Thank you, Jo, SWE and Brit for being part of My Tribe!

Unfortunately, this tiled in reverse order: It’s supposed to be: We Did It!,  SWE & Brit, and me…

P.S.  It turned out that the bimini was covered by the insurance… and when I got to Marseilles, my hard drive suddenly worked … the gods were smiling on us!