Normandy and Easter – A Perfect Duo

Normandy. The green, softly flowing valleys, glistening sea, shining white cliffs and sky so close you could hug it. Normandy is such a picturesque place, I think my soul has found a second home from its shores. I am always happy to return there, and bring some friends along, like we did this time.

Normandy is starting to be our Easter habit, it seems. It is just close enough to get to for a long weekend, and just far enough to feel like you are abroad, or at least, somewhere else.

Early in the Saturday morning we hit the road. Despite the masses of people on the road we reached our first walk early. We had chosen a small loop around the countryside near the town of Yport. Yport, as many of the towns on the coast, sits there where the cliffs lower down to a valley. The streets climb and wind up from the beach onto the cliffs to go off finding other villages. The houses are a harmonious combination of natural rocks and bricks. I would imagine happy people are living in them.

After a good walk we headed to camp at the same place where we have been every time when we go to Normandy. On the cliffs, a few kilometres to the west from Étretat. Good weather and long Easter weekend had lured out some other wild campers too, so we did not get our favorite spot, right on top of the cliff, but no-one let that ruin the mood.

We got our camp up and campfire going at the edge of the cliff just perfectly to be able to enjoy the colors of the sunset. After dinner the cooling air shooed us away to our tents as the stars started to litter the sky. The night was chill and I could not sleep too much. Instead I listened to the sea and the calmness of the night… and Waffle, sleeping next to me.

I was surprisingly well rested in the morning, as we prepared for the coming day, by munching breakfast. The hike for the day was something we had already done with Waffle a couple of years back. The trail would walk us via the cliffs to Étretat and beyond, and return back deeper inland, stretching a distance of about 16 km.

Waffle and Bram found their inner children and were soon enough climbing and crawling into caves, eventually managing to get me and Maria into that business as well. The beaches and cliffs with their caves kept us rather busy for a while, but the crumbling tummies demanded us to climb back up and find our way to Étretat to get some food.

The closer to the village we got, the more people there started to be on the trail, everybody want’s the hottest selfie with the famous arches. I do think they are better seen a little bit further away, down from one of the beaches, rather than by sitting on top of one.

At one point Bram’s face went sour. He had dropped his phone somewhere. A vigorous search started. Me and Maria were left on the important duty of watching over the stuff, as the guys ran up and down the path in search of the phone.

It was nowhere to be seen.

After the shock treatment Bram swallowed his fate, blocked the sim and life started to go on again. We had a quick lunch in the beach boulevard of Étretat, trying not to get annoyed by the massive crowd of tourists.

Finally we headed on, over the cliffs again, before turning back via the fields. Half way back we ended up at the goat farm Le Valaine, where we had visited earlier too. The place where they make amazing chocolates and ice creams out of goats milk! Of course we had to pay a visit, after which Maria and Bram were rather sold too. The only sad thing is, that they are shutting the place down, since there is nobody to continue the business.

So if you happen to be into goat herding and ice cream / chocolate making, please go there, me and Waffle will promise to be your most loyal clients!

Another tired and serene evening followed with campfire rattling on the cliff and sun putting on its best show while setting. It felt good to crawl to bed and lat the sleep take us away to another world.

Monday was the last they we had in the beautiful Normandy. We started driving off towards Dieppe and another set of cliffs. We were passing a series of very beautiful Normandian villages and farmlands on our way to the destination, which was Criel-Sur-Mer.

Those cliffs covered in whispering grass were bathing in the sun as we climbed them. The northern wind had turned a little warmer with the sun, and hiking was very pleasant, even our Portuguese addition was unwrapping herself.

It was a very beautiful walk to end the trip, not a spectacular one, rather the beauty was more hidden in its subtle colors and warm sunshine. In any case it left me wanting to stay there. Normandy just feels like an improved Finland sometimes, very homely.

We’ll be back, soon I hope.

 

 

 

 

 

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Project Half Marathon – Halfway goals

In February we started this silliness of training for a half marathon.  It seemed hopeless in the beginning, I had not run in ages and Waffle was completely against the idea of running all together.

Well, a month or two down the road and we are still running. Waffle is learning to like it, even though he refuses to admit it too loudly. He is actually doing a lot better than anyone imagined.

Waffle runs about twice a week. A shorter run during the week, usually on Wednesdays of Thursdays, with the aim of increasing his running speed. He runs now well below 6 minutes  per kilometer.  He takes distance training on Sundays, running every Sunday a wee bit further. Just last week he has increased the running distance to 14 km. Incredible, I would say. I am also very jealous; my progress is a lot slower.

I then, on the other hand. I have been following the Polar 21 km running programme rather meticulously. I have a workout everyday.  4 days a week I run, from easy jog to intervals. On Sundays, just like Waffle, I do a long run. On top of that I have mobility and strength exercises planned through out the week.

Currently I am at the steady pace of about 6:30 minutes per kilometre (slow like snail, I know), last Sunday I managed to go on for 10,5 kilometers, even though it was a very hot day for so early in the spring. I was hurried on by an angrily hissing goose, a large thanks  for my achievement goes to him / her. But gees or not, I am afraid I am behind schedule, so the coming weeks I am going to have to push up the game.

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The gear then, it has not really been upgraded. The shoes are the same, just a bit more mud on them, and I am still happily running with my activity tracker. We are both now also using the free version of Strava, which is great help in tracking the routes and speeds we are doing. Also you see quite some other runners from your area. (Polar Flow has that feature too!)

The only minor complaint I have are my trail running shoes from New Balance, they cause my foot to tense up after a bit longer wobble. But I can always switch to the road shoes, so it is not a major issue.

It has been surprisingly easy to find time for all this. After all the 30 minutes to an hour per day is not such a massive sacrifice and the positive out come of seeing yourself get fit is keeping the motivation up.  And we are very happy, that nothing is broken, and everybody’s knees are holding up.

Against plenty of the odds, we might actually survive this challenge with dignity!

Parts One and Two of the running related posts!

Building a Caravan – Where to begin?

You should start from the bottom.

So we were sitting a while at the drawing table. Thinking out the dimensions and what kind of space we would be comfortable to live in and what would be reasonable to drag behind our car. The internal dimensions are 145 cm of height, 300 cm of length and 145 cm of width. There is a curve at the front, for the aerodynamics, so the roof length will be a little less. Pinterest has been a wonderful source of inspiration!

Simply because it is a lot easier to build your cabin to match the bottom, than the other way round, we searched for the bottom first. We looked at the secondhand market, to find a proper sized bottom of a trailer in a reasonable condition. That turned out to be a difficult task. The trailer bottoms are not usually made for home built caravans, so they are often too short, and if they happen to be long enough, they are way too wide.

After a long search we started asking quotes from companies to build a bottom for us from scratch. That was not quite as easy as you might think either. First of all, our budget does have a bottom and most of the prices offered were breaking that bottom heavily. Plus many companies only offer a certain sizes and shapes and are very limited the possibilities of alteration.

Finally we hit a jackpot. Helpo trailers near Lommel in Belgium heard our calls and invited us over to make the plans and calculations. A few weeks later we drove off with a brand new trailer bottom, made to our specific measurements (157 cm wide, inside the wheels, 310 cm long on the outer edges), with some additional bits included; an edge to bolt the walls into and a towing hook at the front, for bicycles or buggies. the whole shebang mounted up to a cost of about 1100 euros.

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As we had the price for the bottom, it started to be easier to estimate the size of the complete pile of money for this project. After some research, we made an educated guess, that in the end of this our common wallet would be 3500 euros lighter. At this moment, the expenditure has been 2911 euros. With that we have acquired the following:

The walls first of all. The outer walling will be made out of 1,5 cm water resistant plywood, plus some bendable plywood at the front, to make a cool, aerodynamic curve. For inner walls we have softer 0,8 cm plywood with no water resistance. There is also the wood for the framing the whole thing (4 cm x 4 cm studs). In total the cost of the wood went up to 550 euros. Thanks to some bargains. The big plates of plywood are difficult to find in an affordable price. We also put some pennies (90 euros) to the side for the insulation, so that we can be all warm and cosy during the winter too. There is also a pair of windows (230 euros from Germany), since we kind of like the idea of being able to see outside.

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Those are the big things for our project. In addition to this, we have some luxury items. Waffle wanted electricity, so electricity he’s got. We ordered flexible solar panels (2 x 100 w) from China for about 250 euros in total, plus customs over here. Belgium is heavy on import taxation for these things.

Then, to get any use out of the solar panels we needed a few additional bits. A solar cell battery for 100 Ah (180 euros). Inverters (16 + 40 euros), we’ve got two, for things with heavy usage and things that are light on electricity. And a charge controller (120 euros) to make most out of the union of our battery and the solar panels. On top of that we have a pile of lighting, leds of course (35 euros) and sockets for appliances, pile of cabling and switches (80 euros of budgeted money for these).

Again we had difficulties to find a nicely priced battery from Belgium. For that we had to look from Germany. The thing to know here, is that you cannot use acid batteries, because of the gases they produce while charging. Or you can, but then the possibility of suffocation needs to be tended to. And the apparent danger of explosion, too. We solved this issue by going for a gel battery, but there are also lithium ones available. Cabling and the smaller bits and bobs are from Belgium, all the rest from China again, but mainly products that are sold also here, just with a different price tag.

There are also already some nice fluffy things for the inside of the trailer, meaning super comfy mattresses (2 x 70 cm wide, 190 euros, from Jysk) and pillows (35 euros). All nice bargains from the Netherlands!

We are still missing a few bits. The one obvious one is the stuff that is going to make it waterproof, the coating. We have been mainly looking at two options; Titebond and cloth, which seems to be a good and cheap solution, or aluminium.

The aluminium is of course the cooler option, but it is damned difficult to find in the size we need it to be. If any of you guys know where in the area of Benelux + Germany and France you can find Aluminium alloy 3001 in at least 150 cm wide, please shout, loudly!

Next time, I hope, I can write already about the actual building of this thing!