Past, Present And The Future That May Be
Another week gone in the depths of SW France, and another week closer to the end of the year.
It’s been grippingly cold this week, and unusually wet. Normally I look forward to the sunny winters here, but as with everywhere it seems weather patterns are changing. Blizzard warnings in Hawaii, snowless in Denver and cold and rainy in SW France. What is the world coming to?
In the meantime all this grey weather is making me reflective.
I think back over the past few years, so very different from what we originally had in mind when we first moved over here. We envisaged way more travel of course, all of which was cut short by the Pandemic. Yet despite this we managed quite a few “tours”, conquered reams of seemingly impossible French paperwork, and even engaged in a few adventures we hadn’t planned at all. It’s good to remind yourself of these things every now and then.
And of course Christmas is just around the corner, so we’re also thinking ahead. The house is decorated, our Danish advent candle is burning down the days and we’re all laser-focused on the ever-changing COVID numbers. We’ve got two weeks until we (maybe, hopefully) leave and we still have no firm idea if it’s all going to come together. I have to admit it’s a disorienting place to be.
Thoughts of past, thoughts of present and thoughts of the future that may be.
Kind of like the Christmas ghost, but just in a blog post for you to read.
The Present Evolves
What’s a weekly blog post without a COVID update these days, eh?
In truth nothing mind-boggling has happened over the past week, although with restrictions piling up like dirty laundry it almost seems as though something significant should have changed. In reality it’s just more of the same. More virus infections (of course), more Omicron news (surprise, surprise the variant is everywhere now) and more futile attempts at stopping the spread.
Many EU countries have now limited entry to vaccinated people only (actually I’m surprised it took this long), plus some are also adding pre-departure tests, post-arrival tests and even banning certain travelers altogether. To make it even more complicated each country has its own list of “safe” and “not safe” countries which are updated at completely different and confusing intervals. Frankly it’s a mine-field to keep on top of, especially if you’ve got family traveling from multiple places (which is part of our plan), but I guess that’s just the way things are right now.
Here in France we’re still OK to travel, for the time being.
In fact we’re ALL boosted now (I just got my 3rd jab two days ago), plus we’ve all had our flu jabs too. Incidentally I’ve developed X-ray vision and have started to glow at night, but it’s probably not related. Seriously though, the COVID booster went fine, and apart from feeling tired that afternoon I’ve had zero other side-effects. Bonus is that I’m electronically updated too now. My French “pass sanitaire” QR code (basically our vaccine passport, which works throughout Europe) will automatically become active 7 days from now and will remain remain valid for another 7 months*, or until rules change again.
*Mandatory Boosters? Starting Jan 15th, 2022, boosters are a requirement in France for our vaccine certificates to remain active. Right now this is specifically a French thing, but other EU countries are already talking about implementing a nine-month validity for the EU area as a whole. So, if you have any travel planned for Europe next year, it’s a good idea to stay on top of your boosters, just to be on the safe side.
The Past Is A Sweet Memory (Sometimes)
It’s interesting to look back and see what we’ve done with our time here in Europe. The Pandemic obviously blurred and halted a lot of it, but in-between we’ve actually managed some gems.
Our first serious trip in LMB was to NE Spain back in early 2019. It only lasted a few weeks and we barely drove 700 miles, but we caught Carnival in Sitges, found our first real boondocking spot in Peñiscola and of course sighted our first European lighthouse. It was an awesome trip.
Just a few months later Paul took off on the Camino de Santiago with his dad, an ~800km hiking trek across Spain, while I took the more relaxed route in LMB with my dad, our two cats and Polly. It was another super short tour, but packed with adventure from the goregous Northern Coast of Spain, to the fabulous Cathedral at Burgos, a twisty-turny road across the Pyrenees and a final medieval stop in France. It was also my first solo-driving trip, which in LMB was an absolute breeze.
The end of that year we squeezed in another tour, this time to Les Landes in France. We totally took our time, inching up the coast from beach spot to beach spot, finding absolute bliss at Cap De L’Homy, hiking the largest sand dunes in W. Europe, seeing the oldest lighthouse in France at Cordouan, and camping right smack in the middle of an ancient fortress. In retrospect, 2019 was pretty darn exciting.
Then of course came 2020 and we all know how that turned out. We did manage a few small outings, to Carcasonne and the Pyrenees, but most of it was spent at home waiting from one lockdown to the next. Sadly it was also the year our two kitties passed, just one month from each other. There were a few bright points of course (we did get a new septic tank despite almost-insurmountable French paperwork, and a fancy new pellet boiler), but all-in-all 2020 was a year I’ll probably prefer to forget.
Finally 2021, the year we made it out again and all the way to Denmark no less. Our biggest tour in Europe so far crossing 7 countries and amassing countless memories. It was an amazing, incredible trip and I can only hope 2022 will bring something close to it.
Looking back I see all the wonderful things we’ve done and also those we missed. It’s a good exercise to do every now and then, but it’s both a blessing and a curse. I guess life is always like that?
The Future Is Here
The Christmas Spirit is strong in our house right now.
We got a Christmas tree this week, along with our required jars of pickled herring from IKEA. They actually sell trees everywhere in France, including at all the supermarkets, so for around EUR 20-30 you can always find something decent. Most are “Sapin Nordmann” which don’t smell of much, but also don’t lose their needles and basically last forever. We usually keep ours for at least a month and it still looks great when we’re done (you can buy them potted too so you can plant them out after, if you wish).
We also have our Advent Calendars going.
In Demark this is a big thing, and usually every kid gets one. My mother sewed one for each of the kids many years ago, and we’d get a teeny little hand-wrapped present from it each day. In Scandinavia you also follow the days on television. It’s a tradition that started in 1957 on Swedish Radio, with a series called Barnens adventskalender (the children’s adventcalender) that eventually evolved into TV. To this day, every day in December there’s a Julekalender, a little TV show that airs from Dec 1st until 24th. Some of them are kids-related and others are shall-we-say more for the adults, but they’re always a blast to watch. All the Nordic countries do it.
Here in France I don’t know how far the tradition goes back but there are TONS of Chocolate-related calendars sold in all the supermarkets, as well as a bunch of beer and wine-related ones for the adults. They seem to sell out quickly so I guess it’s quite popular here too?
I can’t resist a little advent calendar and usually buy an online one every year (I love the Jacquie Lawson one right now), plus I always buy a Danish Christmas candle that we burn each day in December. Two traditions from my childhood that I really love to repeat.
The Rest Is Yet To be
As I end this reflective day I’m inundated with thoughts. Memories that swirl, hopes that still burn and questions about what will be.
As each year passes in my life all these things become more intense. I become more aware of a past that is gone, of things that once were which can never be again. These past few years, especially with all the craziness of COVID, that particular thought has become even more apparent. I’m still optimistic too of course, although the future is more blurry these days than it once was. Plans feel more fluid, and I’ve lost the grip that once seemed so solid on the day-to-day. Perhaps it’s age or just the times we live in, but life certainly feels different than it has before?
In the midst of it all this I look to the things I know I can count on. Traditions that hold us steady, the beauty of nature, love, and a future that will certainly bring more of it all. Ah yes, it’s been a reflective week and as this year comes to a close I can’t help wonder….what will I write about next December? Perhaps the ghost of Christmas future will come to let me know.
Christmas Gift Ideas: I don’t plan to do a Christmas gift list this year, but if you’re looking for a few last-minute pressie ideas, please feel free to browse my favorite list: Hiking & Travel Gear That Goes The Distance. I still LOVE all the stuff in that list (in fact I’m still using the same jacket in that picture!), so I’m sure you’ll find something to inspire you. Plus I truly appreciate any purchases you make from the links.
Question of the Week: So my blog reader friends do you feel the ghost of the past in your thoughts? Or is the future that drives you? How does the end of this year feel to you? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and feelings on this in the comments below.SPONSORED LINK:
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