Photos from our travels: Part 4 – French Pyrenees

This was a beautiful part of France. Châteaux, mountains, hot springs, French markets and lots more, from 17th August to 5th September 2010. Click to enlarge the map or photos.

Carcasonne has an amazing fairy tale Château, and is generally a very pretty place, but once you go inside, you are greeted with tacky souvenir shops.
This is the Château at Peyrepertuse, it’s an amazing old Cathar Castle built in the 11th Century. We’re big fans of hot springs, although at Rennes-les-Bains we only found the warm springs (still beautiful), this photo is nearby.
This is not far from the campsite we stayed on near Foix. In the evening we followed a footpath and went for a great walk, founds lots of wild food and saw wildlife like this butterfly.
In Saint-Lizzier near Saint-Girons, lots of interesting plants, including this kiwi vine. Bagnères-de-Luchon, beautiful place in the Pyrenees. Sunset from campsite at Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre. We spent a week here, it was a beautiful place and I had some work to catch up on. Lots of walks in the surrounding countryside, some amazing views and wildlife and a great market on Saturday. As well as the amazing mushrooms and spider, we saw a hummingbird moth, which looks a bit like a hummingbird, but it was flapping its wings too fast to be able to take a good photo of it.

Monkey stole my apple!

Today we went to Gibraltar – I’d heard that the Upper Rock Nature Reserve is the only place to have monkeys in the wild, specifically Barbary Macaques. I wasn’t really expecting to see them, but there were loads of them! At one point, I was walking along, happily eating an apple when one of the monkeys came up to me, climbed up my leg and grabbed my apple. Unfortunately this all happened too quickly to get on camera, but I did manage to take the following pics of the monkey eating the stolen apple:

Making Cheese

We’ve been staying in Orgiva (Granada Province, Spain) for a couple of months, we rented a little house as it was getting a bit cold in the van (there is no heating in the van). While we were travelling in France we were buying the most amazing selection of raw milk cheeses, but here in Spain there is not the same selection, and they mostly have hard cheeses rather than the soft cheeses they have in France. You can buy soft cheeses in Spain but they are much harder to find, and it seems that in Orgiva it is only possible to buy hard cheese.

But here it is easy to buy raw goats milk direct from the farm, so I decided I would try making my own cheese. A friend told me a way of making cottage cheese just using lemon juice to curdle the milk, it worked ok but took quite a long time for the milk to separate. A little while ago I got a book called Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, which has some cheese recipes in it using rennet. So I got some rennet and used kefir as a starter to “ripen” the milk, and made cheese which resembled mozzarella in texture. Wild Fermentation is an excellent book, I reviewed it in Funky Raw magazine issue 17, and I will republish the review here soon.

Wanting to take things further, I bought a book called Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, which has recipes for all kinds of cheeses, but I’ve not yet made anything from it as I need to buy various starter cultures and moulds. It looks like a really good book, with hard and soft cheese recipes, mould ripened cheeses like Camembert and more. If you like cheese, I really recommend you try making your own, it’s lots of fun and there is so much to experiment with to make your perfect cheese.

Fresh Fizzy Spring Water

Went for an amazing walk today in the La Taha area of the Alpujarras (Granada province, southern Spain). There are many places to collect fresh spring water around here, but the spring we found today was a little different: the water was sparkling. Yes, fizzy spring water, straight from the source:

There was even a sign telling us that the water is fizzy and explaining the health benefits of the water. If you can read Spanish, click on the photo to see a larger version you can read.

The spring is near Ferreirola, on the Ruta Medieval towards Busquistar. It’s a very beautiful area and there are lots of walks and of course you can taste fizzy spring water yourself (it’s delicious by the way!)

Photos from our travels: Part 3 – Mediterranean France

Getting into the swing of this now! Here are some photos from the first couple of weeks of August. As before click the map and photos to see large versions.

St-Quentin-de-la-Poterie was a fascinating little place. In the past it had been a commercial pottery town, making tiles and such like. Several years after the heavy industry closed down independent artisan pottery studies started opening up, now there is something like 23 studios. If you like ceramics, it’s worth checking out! Anyway, to the photos, this was a mosaic on the street. Cevennes National Pak. This is in Bédouès where our campsite was. We liked this area and the nearby town of Florac which had an interesting market.
We went for a walk from the campsite in Bédouès, Cevennes. We never like to take the same route back but we hadn’t got a map so we took a bit of a risk. Turned into the longest walk ever, didn’t get back to the van until sometime after 10pm! At the bottom of the campsite was this river and lots of wild greens for fresh juice.
Gorges du Tarn, on the edge of the Cevennes National Park. The gorge is over 30 miles long and very beautiful, went for a good walk, although the trees generally obscured the view of the gorge, we got the best views from walking along the road. Flamingos in the Carmargue area, not far from Montpelier.
The amphitheatre in Nímes, over 2000 years old and still standing In a little place called Ginac, campsite by the river.

Photos from our travels: Part 2 – Italy

Oops, I’m a bit slow with this, here are some photos from July. We were in Briançon, only 10km from the border with Italy so we decided to pop over for a quick visit. The first night we camped wild and saw the most amazing sight, lots of fireflys. First time I’ve seen them, they fly around flashing a little light on and off, the affect is best when there are a lot of them. I did take a photo, but it came out black! We covered a lot more ground in a short time in Italy, we whizzed down the motorways to get to a few interesting places, unlike France where we mostly stayed off the motorways on the smaller roads.

Click on the map and photos to see larger versions:

Santa Isola, Italy – This was quite a random stop (like many of the places we have seen), we were driving along and stopped for a little walk and found this beautiful lake and river. Wanted to go in the water but it was very cold (in the mountains), just got my feet in for a few minutes. Out of the mountainous area, we did find a beautiful river to swim in, really warm, but I can’t remember the place name or river name! The sea on the coast at Marina de Pisa was also lovely and warm for swimming.
In Tuscany we went to a few interesting towns and villages with old buildings, Volterra, San Gimignano and Siena. These three photos are from Siena. I’m not religious (far from it) but churches and cathedrals are often beautiful buildings and this one was one of the most ornate I have ever seen.
Back on the coast, this is Vernazza, one of the five villages known as the Cinque Terra. I thought we were in Russia for a moment, but it turns out we were in San Remo This is somewhere in the Alps on the border between Italy and France.
More in the alps. Back in France, Gorges de Daluis (Alps). This was a beautiful area, the photos don’t do it justice.
A place called Annot. Not the most amazing place, but the campsite was great.

France Photos part 1

If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that we set off on June 1st in a camper van. Below is an approximate map of wheer we went for the first five weeks of our trip, and below that some photos. From Briançon we went through the mountains over into Italy for a couple of weeks, I’ll put photos and a map of the next sections of the trip up soon.

Travels in France Part 1 map

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Wimereux, between Calais and Bologne has some interesting buildings. Wild rocket near Paris! Gecko in Bourg-en-Bress
We stayed at Chavannes, near Bourg-en-Bress. beautiful campsite by a river and lots of walks in the area. Driving through the mountains towards Geneva we saw this beautiful lake. Bright and colourful architecture in Geneva (yes, we popped over the border into Switzerland for a couple of days)
St. Johns Wort flower at a herb garden in Geneva Stayed in Taninges in the Alps for a few days, it rained a lot but on the nice days we had some beautiful walks
Sculpture in forest at Taninges
A beautiful lake not far from the campsite. No rain on our last day in Taninges so we went for a long walk into the forest. Saw all kinds of wildlife and mushrooms (not sure what they were though) plus some fun sculptures.
Interesting mushroom at Taninges Another mushroom at Taninges Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in the Alps
Wild mushrooms, Taninges. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is in the Alps, about 15km from the border with Italy. It was amazingly beautiful…
More photos of Chamonix. We also found the best wild strawberries here.
Interesting flowers near Briançon
A final waterfall photo at Chamonix. Le Petit-Bornand-les-Glières was a random stop on the way to Annecy. Tiny campsite in a sleepy village, very pretty. In the mountains near Briançon, beautiful area and interesting town with great market and several good organic fruit and veg shops.

Travelling in our van

Our exciting news – we moved out of our flat in London into a camper van:

Camper Van

We’re currently travelling in France, looking for an area we would like to live, where we can buy land to set up some kind of raw food retreat/holiday centre. I will try and keep this blog updated with our progress, photos and of course all the wild food we are finding.

We have found quite a few wild strawberries, but the other day Jolita spotted what looked like a massive patch but on closer inspection we realised that they weren’t strawberries:

Mock strawberry

And here’s a real wild strawberry to compare:

Real strawberry

When I next got access to the internet, I looked it up and found that it is called Mock Strawberry, False Strawberry or Indian Strawberry, Latin Potentilla indica (formerly Duchesnea indica and it is stilled listed as this in some places). It is edible, so next time we found some I tried one – it has almost no flavour and it is white inside just like real strawberries.

Walk by the Rio Ebro

Today I walked from Tortosa to Xerta mostly along the Rio Ebro and then back along the Via Verde (green way) which is a dissused railway line which has been converted to a footpath, the roundtrip was about 30km.

Rio Ebro

Water wheel

Food for the day:

For breakfast I had a mix of sprouted seeds (hemp, sunflower and pumpkin) with soaked goji berries, figs and apricots

Throughout the day I had about 5 kakis, 8 satsumas, a few dates and cacao beans plus an orange and some carob pods I found along the way.

When I got back I had a custard apple and then a large salad with wild greens I picked during the walk, courgette, olives, a tomato, some fresh dulse, sprouted rye and some onion basil and olive cracker.

More photos on Flickr.