jungle, jungle

I need you to be the judge here. Or at least a collective jury. And I’ll promise to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

the view from our cabin

You see, when researching where we might stay and visit in Sri Lanka, I came across an eco lodge in Dagana – deep into the wilderness, just East of Kandy. I read on and researched as deep as I could Google and – the more I read – the more I felt a couple of nights of living in the jungle (as eco as is quite frankly possible) might just be a huge amount of fun. AND a sort of challenge, to take us outside of our comfort zone (which is only too ridiculously cushy) while giving us a different, even inspiring perspective on life.

This was always my motive. (nothing more sinister, I promise).

our cabin in Polwaththa Eco-Lodge, Sri Lanka

So last Friday (after a quick samosa for lunch), our driver handed us over to the eco team at the bottom of a dirt track and, as he waved us goodbye for almost 48 hours, we were jeeped-up a very steep mountain deep, deep into the thick undergrowth.

The husband immediately looked concerned. ‘What have you booked?’ he mouthed to me in the back of the jeep.

The boy is wearing ‘leech socks’…. to try and keep those pesky friends off our ankles

Then we arrived and a chorus of animals, birds and all the creepy crawlies that have never been identified greeted us into the lodge. We were shown to our remote cabin (all built from resources the team has immediately available to them) and – since unpacking was never going to be an option – we just lay down on our (rather damp – this is almost rainforest after all) beds to take stock of the situation.

And because I had always thought that this might make an interesting blog post (again, full disclosure), I sat back and watched how my gang responded to our living conditions – basic accommodation, a constantly invaded bathroom by slugs, snails and the like, the constant threat (and therefore immediate removal) of leeches galore as well as full on noisy elements and those all too dominating multi-legged neighbours.

the local village

The Boy – I must admit – immediately got the picture. ‘This is an adventure and it’s fun” he instructed the other two. ‘Yes, it’s a challenge but every time you are scared or uncomfortable, you just have to recognise those are simply scary emotions and so you have to turn them into something funny.”

He didn’t even freak out when the Husband found a leech in his small boy armpit sucking the living daylights. He just told me to get it OFF.

The Girl would be the first to admit she’s found it hard. The first evening she brought her dinner straight back up. I think the combination of fear and spices were mostly to blame.   At 545am as the thunder and lightening hit our tin roof, she did wonder if maybe we might cancel our second night and ‘leave this **** hole’ as soon as it was light. But the next morning we were trekking (with a guide) through stunning woodland and meeting local villagers on our way to the waterfall deep in the jungle. (oh and – for the record – I didn’t scream when I saw the snake.)

these lovely women invited us into their home as they made sugary snacks from the sap of a tree

The Husband has asked me not to go into detail about how he’s felt and so I’ll respect that. He did add though that he was super impressed to see how economically self-sufficient life was at the eco lodge. The team, and their surrounding area, grow almost everything they need to live – coffee, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, almond, avocados, coconut, bananas, cacao, rice, tea, spices and so much more – with obviously all the timber you could ever need. The food is good and meal times are really sociable… which was just the reassurance we needed (except I didn’t really enjoy hearing that my new friend had found a rat in her bathroom in the middle of the night). The lodge and its activities are extremely well organised; there is no doubt in all of our minds that they are passionate about creating something extremely special there.

this cute little fella wanted me to take his picture

 

homegrown pepper

The bonus of living without wifi (it is available in the central eating/relaxing area but strongly discouraged) was something I personally had been craving. As a freelancer, I’ve been working a little each day of this trip and this gave me full permission to down tools and be totally present. Besides, cool Lion beer and a rolling card game is all you need to spend an evening (or 2) in the Great Outdoors.

so green, it’s almost fluorescent

Whether or not you feel I’m guilty of cruelty to those who might not like jungles… I’m sure I’ll be forgiven for subjecting my gang to most of the above. Besides we did all agree that we have laughed more during the last 24 hours than we’ve laughed EVER BEFORE and there’s something incredibly bonding about all finding a situation belly-achingly hilarious. Even after 2 nights of very little sleep.

For more information about Polwaththa Eco Lodges – click here.

(For all those asking for a list of everywhere we’ve stayed, I’ll post that at the end of the trip. As I’ve mentioned on Instagram a few times – our trip was organised by Rickshaw Travel.)

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secret histoire

So much about the planning (or should I say plotting) of holidays is tactical, I find. There was my mother on the end of the phone asking how the children had done in their French aural exams. And there I was slightly exaggerating as to how baffling they were finding the French language. Because, you see, we were both angling for the perfect excuse… to make a beeline for a petit sejour en France… more specifically for Ile de Re, just off the west coast.

It was her (calculated) decision to stay in the main town of St-Martin-de-Ré and it was in the well-researched way (only really) she knows how that La Baronnie was discovered – an 18th-century manor house posing as the most exquisite B+B you could ever imagine.

And from here we entered French history; on 22 April 1785, La Baronnie was acquired by King Louis XVI for Marie-Antoinette, you see…

La Baronnie in Ile de Ré

More like a private home than a traditional hotel, the stone mansion is a truly peaceful hideaway. Restored by Pierre and Florence Pallardy – he is a well-known osteopath and she is a model turned interior designer – our stay was an intimate, calm and almost regal experience. And yet we were only two minutes walk from the town’s busy and picturesque harbour.

So we cycled and we walked. We adored the narrow lanes spilling over with hollyhocks. We experienced pure shutter envy. And we ate.

Here are our favourites for dinner in St Martin for those planning a visit:

Le Cible (thank you to friends who passed this gem on to us!)  all the sand, all the charm

Le Bistro de Marin no reservations, no frills but beaucoup de BUZZ

Le Serghi don’t be put off by the limited menu, every plate was truly delicious

Un Air de Famille the newbie in town, might end up trumping them all with enthusiasm 

(the legendary) La Martiniere, artisan glacier

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the tiny house movement

The conversation went a little like this:

“Wouldn’t it be fun to take the kids to their first festival?”

“hmmm”

“Shall we?”

“huh?”

“err HELLO, shall we book tickets for Latitude?”

“Maybe..”

“Really??!?”

“What?”

“Did you just agree to us going to Latitude Festival this summer?”

“…NOT if I have to sleep in a tent.”

Latitude 2018

So there I had it. My carrot stick. We were going to Latitude but I just needed to wave a magic wand so that those who weren’t tent-friendly would still be present and a little correct.

Of course there are tents and then… there are bell tents, tipis, lodges, lotus bells, yurts and… this is as far as we got when the 4 of us, crowded over my screen, saw the A I R S T R E A M.

For those who aren’t familiar with this retro silver trailer, the Airstream trailers have been turning heads on American highways since they first started caravanning in the 1930s.

So by now, tent or no tent, I was fixated on laying my pretty festival head inside one of these ultimate symbols of vintage wanderlust.   It had all the shine and design I could dream of…. so – me being me – I forced a friendship with Mojo (real name), the MD of Airstream Facilities.

The rest really is history. We couldn’t have enjoyed the festival more – while dipping into the luxury of our mobile home when we needed to chill out.

So let me give you my top 5 reasons why a travel trailer trumps all other forms of accommodation, particularly when festival fiesta-ing:

  • everyone had a bed, a real bed with mattress and duvey and pillow. He and I were in the double bedroom at the rear and the front seating area coverted into an (almost) double bed while the dinette converted into a (large) single.
  • The trailer has a fully equipped kitchen as well as deck chairs under the beds so that you create a sitting area outside the Airstream; a perfect place for morning coffee when insiders were full of snores.
  • The TV, air conditioning, central heating and surround sound hi-fi were less of interest bearing in mind we had all the entertainment we could ever shake a stick at on our doorstep but the plug-in factor was HUGE. I mean, give me a festival goer who doesn’t crave a plug socket?
  • The bathroom. Let’s chat about the bathroom. The sink, shower, loo. God bless the Airstream and its own water supply. Some days I showered twice. Just because I could.
  • Last of my top 5 was the thrill of living in total comfort within this iconic design. I became obsessed with the idea that we might sell everything we owned and live on the road. Check out the instagram hashtag #Airstreamliving and you’ll see what they call the ‘tiny house movement’ as we all long to live small yet not compromise on the design.

For more info about Mojo and his Airstreams – dive in here.

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telling the tales

I’m good at sharing.  I share easily.  In fact, sometimes I simply can’t help but share.  I’m taking less about the liquorish allsorts {type of sharing}and more about my personal stories.  I’m referring mostly to the sharing of my feelings; my experiences and the things that make me spring out of the bed, most mornings.

So I want to share with you one of the projects I’m working on right now.  True to form, because almost all of you now know that Panzer’s Deli has undergone a major transformation; and that Hampstead is always a good village to head for.  But this project is more than a little different.

You see, I’m going to surprise you and not try and sell you the latest ANYTHING.  This project is outside of my usual sphere, let alone comfort zone.  Together with a clever friend, I’m writing a book of short stories for children.

But the really interesting bit is that the clever friend is a… RABBI.  I know, I’m as surprised as you are, honestly.  Most of my closer friends that I’ve told, over a glass of something cold and sometimes sparkly, have roared with laughter.  Not because it’s even vaguely amusing nor nice to laugh at the idea that anyone might write a book with a rabbi.  No.  Because that anyone is me.

I’ve pretty much disregarded, tried to ignore, brush off and generally abstain from all things religion since I spent many a Sunday of my teenage years in church saying The Lord’s Prayer.  Then I married a Jew and got by, just by jumping a few hurdles.

And now I’m writing a book with a rabbi.

The short stories will aim to bring alive those stories (from the Torah) that have never seen the light of day – or have been told previously in a less than engaging way.  Often, they will be written in the first person (of the 8-13 year old who will be reading them) or via a talking donkey or a moody female cow. They will be read in synagogue when the child is looking for somewhere to direct their attention.  And parents at bedtime as well as RS teachers will (hopefully) delight in this slightly alterative voice of storytelling where fact and relevancy don’t mean a lack of real, kid-friendly engagement.

And all of you?  You’ll still giggle at the idea that I’m writing a book with a rabbi … until you meet him, read the stories, try to answer our life questions (which follow each tale) and then you’ll see that he’s the ultimate storyteller, the master of mixing tradition with the modern world, the Jewish Pied Piper  – all with the patience of a saint for that idiot who needs more explanation of how the colourful bunch who feature in the Torah came to be. 

Then I’m hoping you’ll read on.  Because there’s a kid in all of us.

This is Rabbi Jeremy Gordon

And if you want to know more about this project, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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