After last summer’s transformative road trip to Gascony, I’ve decided to make the trip an annual pilgrimage. The whole idea started with an invitation from Kate Hill and Tim Clinch to attend one of their food photography workshops at Kate’s Kitchen at Camont. The invite led to Rocky and I going on a road trip through France. And while I can’t speak for Rocky, I can certainly say for myself that the trip changed my life and my outlook on the world – for the better (read more on this in My Food Story from Gascony).
But let’s be clear: it wasn’t just Gascony that made the experience amazing. Gascony – and Kate and Tim – were the marvellous catalysts through which I experienced beautiful and amazing people, places and – of course – food. And also the experience of travelling solo with my dog.
So this morning at 8:15am Rocky and I set sail for this year’s edition of the summer pilgrimage, and I’m at this moment on the ferry from Portsmouth to Mont St Michel. I should also add that I’m enjoying a few Brittany Ferries perks, including free wifi and a private room with a very hot shower which I was very grateful to find after having skipped a shower in my rush to get out of the house by 5am.
Sure, I’m tired, but in that pre-Christmas, too-excited-to-sleep sort of way.
This trip will feature a few favourites from last year’s jaunt plus a few new twists.
My first stop is Manzac Ferme in Dordogne, an “adults only” campsite where I will stay for four nights until Friday. I discovered Manzac last year while en route to Camont. The site was so perfect and the people so awesome that I went back to Manzac on my return trip for a few more days.
Last year, the Manzac folks and I spoke of how their campsite isn’t so much a stop-along-the-way, but a destination in itself, a place to just be (they have many guests who return year after year and stay for months at a time). Last year, however, I was always en route to somewhere, and I don’t think I fully appreciated the Manzac experience to its fullest. So I’m going to try do better at that this year. There will be a lot of walking, writing and just hanging out. I’m going to fight the urge to constantly be in a rush to get to the next thing. I am going to try sleeping in and lingering over breakfast!
Manzac feels like exactly the place where I want (or need) to be right now, a place where I can remind myself that solstice is still in my heart and going strong. And I need to fight the pre-emptive feeling that Friday will come and I will have wished I’d spent more time there.
But come Friday, I will be ready to go, for Friday brings a different kind of reaffirmation: a reunion with Kate and Mardi at Camont (night market friends forever).
And after that I get a week of camping it up around France and Northern Spain with two of my best friends, Dave and Rachel, from Austin, Texas.
And then five days to myself which I haven’t planned at all, but knowing me my trip will be topped and tailed by lots of time spent on the trail or in and around a tent.
I don’t want to think too much about the future, as is evidenced by my total lack of planning. Part of that has been due to time – I just don’t have any lately. I’m busy, overextended, a little frazzled, and desperate to recapture something I lost a while ago, something which I think i started to rediscover during solstice, and which I hope to get even closer to over the next few weeks (and beyond). That sounds totally vague and a little like nonsense, but that’s about as much sense as it makes to me right now.