Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Camino - St Jean to Pamplona

I was really surprised heading out of beautiful St Jean village, in all its red and white festival colours, how euphoric and teary- eyed I felt: like this really was going to be a life-changing journey. Then I came down to earth.  Day One was brutal - it took us eleven hours to do a seven hour walk!

I keep asking myself what didnt I  more and why didnt I read about the history on the plane instead of watching Spiderman. No matter, pilgrims true of heart walk on, just putting one foot in front of the other.

One incredibly thing is how encouraging the villagers are. They all call "Buen Camino!!!" - as you pass. They are proud of you. Here's breakfast from yesterday at Carmen's in Zubiri- check out the toilet doors. 

I am well versed in every loo and amenable tree along the way if youre interested. Signing off with my trail name, The Peeing Kiwi, hopefully soon to be Warrior Walker

Saturday, August 16, 2014

See You Later! Off To Walk The Camino de Santiago

We're off this morning to walk the Camino, a pilgrimage through Spain - finally the day that I thought would never come. I would love to leave my phone behind but we need to stay in constant contact so I may even blog while I'm away. We'll be hiking for about seven hours a day for 29 days staying in pilgrims' hostels or churches (maybe cheating a little with a hotel stay).

Practising my walking with poles

Yesterday was shopping at REI. There are many people, especially in the Bay Area, who wet their swishy pocketed pants at the prospect of walking into this place. But for me it's full of stuff I don't care about. I tried on a selection of very ugly shorts. A nice man showed me how to walk.  Literally: we walked around with our hiking poles, opposite arm to leg. Good job, he said. Mrs Shirley Dibble, my old ballet teacher, would have been so proud.

You have to keep your pack to about 10lbs, so here it is. I have one change of clothes but snuck in three tops. (You already know from my posts about The Plan diet I'm a sneaky cheater, so best to be honest with you). I have that sewed-up sheet that you used to have when you packbacked around Europe. My sister advised us to take bed bug spray and apparently hair lice in a problem but we'll cross that comb-out crisis when we get to it.

Kevin has grown a (grey) beard in preparation and cut his hair. It's stress city this week with Kevin taking major exams, us suddenly realising Harley is going to college next year but we don't have one for him (college adviser round the corner, thank you!), massive spreadsheets for the activities and haircuts (and that's just Teddy!) and just a general feeling that's this trip will never happen.

By Day...ageing Peace Corps wannabe...

Uphill action. I look terrible hats, this is the only one that suited - what do you think of this Pistil one?

By Night... (Hobbit meets Mrs Roper)

Greeting fellow pilgrim,  I see you're admiring my Fanny Pack (if you don't know why that is hilariously funny, ask a Kiwi or a Brit) 

One of the things I want to do when I get back - besides arriving home fully self-actualised and knowing whether there is a God - is to go back to my old self - spending hours researching my holidays, counting down the sleeps, thumbing through the Lovely Planet. A huge part of the art of travel.

Cy, 10, must have got the gene as I found him the other day viewing holiday homes in Sonoma just in case his baseball team got in the play-offs next year.  He'd taken little notes: "well-apointed kichen. verdint hills. close to winerees."

Of course all the fuss and bother and stress was nothing when you considered the torment someone like Robin Williams, who lived across the Bay, had been through. The terrible, terrifying sadness he woke to everyday; a sadness that nothing could take away. Goodbye Robin Williams, Rest In Peace.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Plan - Update

I thought I would give you a final assessment of The Plan, a special diet that detoxes and then uncovers your most "reactive" foods. That includes foods touted as "healthy" like salmon, oatmeal and cauliflower which in fact may make you put on weight and bog you down. I've done it to get more energy. The Plan is supposed to be only 20 days but I was put back after cheating. Here are seven things allowed that's made it bearable.

Watermelon, lemon on everything, chocolate and red wine (neither of which I normally have) siracha sauce, pears and avocados and oil.

Full disclaimer. There was no "clean" cooking last week in Santa Barbara. I tried to follow The Plan menus but often couldn't do it to the letter.

1. Do I feel better?
Yes and No (Sorry, I loathe that answer too). I definitely feel every soupcon of salt and vinegar and additives in food when I go out now. Just so you know how much salt and butter goes into restaurant food - I put on 2lbs overnight when I ate chicken at a restaurant one night. I exercised properly only about three times during the last month and I think adding that would have made me feel better.

2. Good stuff?
The 64 oz of water I drank every day was worth the price of admission as I never drank any water before.  I lost 2lbs when I ate beef. Someone else put on 2lbs when they ate artichokes! Sparkling wine is out, papaya (which I ate all the time) is reactive. Learned more about health in three weeks than in my whole life. I like chia and flaxseeds. (Already knew melted cheese and garlic, dried fruit and nuts are not my friends.)

3. Bad stuff?
It's incredibly complicated and strict. I cannot imagine I am the first person who could not keep to it. (However I could feel the inventor of The Plan, Lyn-Genet's, frustration with me seeped through her emails. Fair enough) There is very little to look forward to except the evening meal with the glass of wine. Lunchtime protein is just seeds and bits of goats cheese. I didn't really like the recipes except for the smoothie.

4. Good for weight loss? I did this to feel sprightlier not lose weight. I have only lost 6lbs. It got me off the lattes, bread and bacon and massive amounts of eggs (my body likes poached eggs but not omeletes - go figure!) My first milk latte this morning was not as triumphant as I expected.

5. Would I do it again?
Yes, but properly this time. Blocking out three weeks. And with someone cooking the recipes (this is available in New York). I can't see this happening.

6. Good for the travel ailment that dare not speak it's name?
My mother emailed me... how was my toilet training going? Much better thanks Mum. I have added Probiotics, flaxseed and magnesium to my toilet training arsenal for my trip to Spain.

Last night I celebrated with a meal at my favorite Oakland restaurant, Hopscotch  I went off the rails badly -  food and too much wine. She's back!


We all mourned that they don't cook the chips in duck fat anymore

Donuts with butterscotch

Pork with peaches and black eyed peas
Hmm what was this?
Oysters with sea urchin and salmon roe. Sublime
Forgot...there was a Tin Lizzy (gin vermouth, peach, thyme, mint) before the wine. Oh dear

Congestion when I got home and terrible sleep last night. I fear it was that wafer-thin sliver of cucumber with the oysters. Or it could have been the Tin Lizzy ...and, um, the three glasses of wine that followed. So all Toxed-Up and ready to head off to Spain tomorrow!

What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lauren Bacall

It's hard to imagine another actress who could deliver the whistle lines spoken by Lauren Bacall in To Have And Have Not. (Maybe Cate Blanchett?) "You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." Betty was only 19 and she had knowing power like nobody's business. From anyone elses' lips those words would have sounded coy or subservient or just ridonculous.

Everything she wore still looks so current don't you think?

Here's the whistle video (it's at the end).  Wasn't just everything about her a curly flourish - from her green eyes to her lips to her glossy hair. Even her signature was a curly flourish!

You've probably realised my blog is very "brush with fame." No horse's mouth stuff here, no actual meetings with celebrities. Here we talk to people who walked past their house once five years ago. Who served them a cup of tea last year. So much more telling, I feel...

With Humphrey Bogart and their children

Wow. With Humphrey Bogart in Dark Passage

And so in that very spirit: here's my Betty Bacall story.  When I first moved to London, my friend got a job nursing Lord Somethingorother who had owned a telly studio there (all us Kiwi girls were most impressed he'd made Coronation Street, though the family banned staff from watching soaps in his presence). Anyway, poor Lord S. had advanced alzheimers (called the nurses effing "whores" when they took him out of the bath). His old friend Betty Bacall turned up all the time to visit, much to the nurses' delight. Sorry that's it. That's all I've got.

Angelica Huston in her fantastic autobiography A Story Lately Told  mentions Betty as a great friend to her during a discombobulated childhood and turbulent life. Well, I suppose my point is: Betty had compassion.

Yesterday I caught Cy, 10, watching the Kardashians (and I wonder why no one has called me to write a parenting book)
Kim was sobbing: "This vacation is turning into a nightmare!!!"
Cy called to Kim: "That's nothing! You haven't been away with my family!!"

Cy asked me: "Mum, can I have a few minutes on your computer? I need to look up why Rob Kardashian put on so much weight."
"What was it?" I asked Cy after he'd read through a few articles.
"Depression" answered Cy "he never got over his father's death and then Bruce and his mother broke up." Cy sighed: "Poor guy."

Compassion. My kids don't have it for each other. But they do have it for reality tv stars. Baby steps.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Santa Barbara Yin and Yang

We're back in Santa Barbara again, home to Oprah, The Flying Nun and crazy Michael Jackson. And of course the full quota of trout pouty skeletal seventy-year-olds in mini skirts, refugees from young Hollywood.

Santa Barbara Point 

It's our tenth year at the Family Vacation Center at the University of California Santa Barbara (trips off the tongue nicely doesn't it?) heretowithforth called FVC at UCSB. (a few of the many other posts here and here and here)

I've written about the FVC loads of times before, but for anyone who lives in the US or is thinking of traveling here with kids it's an awesome break. As the signs on our doors say -  "Your best vacation since having kids. "

Santa Barbara Mission

Endlessly enthusiastic counsellors get the chance to spend quality hours with your kids (so generous of us, I know) teaching them to surf etc. Meanwhile you get to enjoy time away stand-up paddle boarding, wine tasting, shopping, yoga-ing...  Or just have the luxury of walking back to your room hands free. I've yet to see a parent who doesn't have a spring in their step after signing their sprogs into a kid's club.

What makes this trip memorable is the ying and the yang. First off there is the requisite packing rage, followed by a six-hour drive through flat nothingness, punctuated with strip malls selling every nuclear-colored food invented.

Tallulah (right) and her friend Jordan spent the six hour journey texting each other 

Kevin investigating another mysterious slapping noise

And then you see the beautiful Santa Barbara mountains and the sea.

We're in the Isla Vista staying in student dorms which are clean, neat and spacious. We're eating at the student cafeteria. This place is yin-yang galore. Outside the student houses I spy a pile of yoga mats next to kegs of beer.  I then watched some "co-eds" dresssed in bikinis, and arrangements masquerading as shorts, cycle and skateboard around the streets. They stopped off to collect spicy chicken from Angry Wings, a cookiewich from IV Drip coffee shop followed by a kale smoothie and into the smoke shop for an elegant bong. A well-rounded lunch?

Ten mins away Santa Barbara town with its Spanish rooftops, art galleries, glamorous hotels and hibiscus and palm beaches. 

Oh, I'm so well balanced now...

One of our four bedrooms 

View from our room
One of the frat houses down the road decorating with plywood
Preparing for calculus
Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Cute bums - butt is it art?
Friends Cameron and Anne on State Street
Wendy Foster Pierre LaFond
Would you wear wabbit?

Boathouse  on Hendry's Beach. We thought we'd spotted some stars but apparently they were just Malibu housewives
Anne, me, Cameron and Sally on Hendry's Beach 

By the way, I'm in my third week of The Plan (which identifies your reactive foods). Tricky to stick to on vacay but I've paid the fee and I'm determined to finish it. I had to loan a set of scales off one of the camp counsellors. I stepped on. Sheeoot!!! How do I tell her that her scales are ....five pounds too light! Could one of you do it for me?

Have you had a vacay lately that is very yin and yang?

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