Back in July, during our stay in Le Touquet, my Mum and I spent a wonderful day together exploring the gardens of the Abbaye de Valloires.
We enjoyed the drive, trusting the GPS as it guided us on the scenic route through villages with cute houses and inviting gardens, along dense crops and fields full of cows. We even proceeded when the GPS directed us down a very narrow-looking path surrounded by marshes and high grasses, praying we wouldn’t come face to face with another vehicle and very relieved to get back onto a proper road and make it to the abbey.
After a few clouds had cleared, it turned out to be a lovely sunny day. We took our time to stroll through the five themed spaces on different levels of the property, observing the multitude of different species. Apart from the stunning symmetrical beds at the foot of the abbey, containing roses of all sizes and colours, there is a vegetable patch, a section with ferns, one focussed on the textures and colours of trees and bushes…
The garden is beautifully maintained and the variety of textures and colours buzzing with pollinators is so rich, it’s hard to know where to direct your attention.
After a delicious lunch in the garden’s café, sampling the locally grown vegetables and home-made desserts, we went back to the rose garden to enjoy the calm and beauty some more.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #189
Last week, on a quiet Friday morning I went for a walk with my Mum and her partner at Marly-le-Roi. We did our usual round through paths beneath the tall trees and then they chilled on a bench while I went to explore the place that had caught my eye.
Whereas the grass is yellow and dry through most of the parc for lack of rain, there is this large dip teeming with young trees, waving reeds and wild flowers. I made my way around it slowly admiring the gorgeous colours and variety of plants.
At one point I stepped on a dry branch close to the side and startled something. I just caught sight of the backs of a couple of deer bounding away before they disappeared into the thick of the reeds, leaving no trace.
I love the colours of this little eco-system, the pastel pinks and silvery greens combining with the light reed tops and darker greens of the shrubs. This space is so lush and wild in contrast to the highly symetrical layout and trees trimmed in cone-shapes of this part of the parc. I am glad that these little of bushy pockets remain for the wildlife to take shelter and thrive.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #187
In between very busy days of work and some rain showers, I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with my Mum exploring the region around Le Touquet.
We spent one sunny morning walking around the fortified village of Montreuil-sur-Mer, which contrary to its name is actually not at the seaside (anymore). Instead, from the tops of the walls there are the stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
We were the only people visiting at that time and it was great to have the place to ourselves. We took our time wandering around the walls, walking up paths surrounded by tall grass and observing how wild flowers and ferns burst through every crack between the bricks.
I liked the freedom with which the plants were left to grow untamed. Later, we read a sign about how Montreuil-sur-Mer is actively protecting bio-diversity, leaving grasses unmown in places, not using pesticides and planting large beds of wild flowers visited by all sorts of bees from beehives placed around the property. It makes me hopeful to see nature thrive when humans stop controlling it so much…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #186
I’ve been working remotely for the past week in a beautiful old house in Le Touquet. Living just a short stroll from the shore is wonderful. Everyday the beach and its surroundings look different, the weather varies a lot and it’s great to pop over and see what it’s like at different moments of the day.
I’ve been taking long after-work walks alone, savouring each step along the long white sand to the sound of the seagulls flying overhead, whipped by the wind, accompanied by the crashing of the waves as the tide comes up.
With my Mum, we’ve delighted in treating ourselves to delicious artisanal ice-cream, trying to combine swiftly eating the melting cones with chatting as we make our way in the sun along the esplanade.
I also explored the dunes, walking between the tufts of wild grasses blowing in the wind, taking deep breaths of fresh air and watching whispy clouds float quickly across the sky.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #185
After months of weekly family Zoom calls and following the news to find out when the borders would re-open, I finally took the train back to France today. I nearly missed it because the train didn’t actually stop in Schiphol where I planned to get on! But thanks to years of conditioning from my Mum, I had arrived super early at the station, as always, so had time to jump on a fast train to Rotterdam and catch the train to Paris there:)
I realise how lucky I am, as many are far from their loved ones and still don’t know when they’ll be reunited. I’m grateful that I live just a train ride away and can work remotely, meaning I have the chance to spend some time surrounded by my family and to share meals and laughs in person!
I don’t know if this really qualifies as a windowsill, but I love how these branches stretch out from behind this stone wall, curious and unafraid of what is on the other side.
Over the Christmas holidays, one afternoon I felt the irresistible need for some fresh air, my body craving to make the most of the little sunlight of the short winter days. So I grabbed my camera and went out, with no other plan than to walk along the streets close to home, open to capturing whatever inspired me. The light was beautiful, though I was clearly working against the clock to actually take some photos before darkness fell.
This simple window caught my eye, the colour and texture of the shutters with their half-moon crescents and the stack of mixed-and-matched plates drying in the rack. In my imaginary it brings up a feeling of home, cosyness, like everyone was off having a nap after tidying the kitchen together and in a few hours preparation for the next family meal will start…
I walked further, along the old walls of the village. A few families were out and about, several generations together walking dogs or most probably taking a digestive stroll in the chilly air. The last rays of sunshine lit up these bare trees, so it seemed like they were in the spotlight.
As the sun disappeared, I loved the sight of these pretty lanterns lining the street against the last colours of the sky.
My last find was this incredible mansion with its tower, the wooden beams in different tones of blue, perfectly colour-coordinated. It’ s a private house so I could only peer semi-discreetly from behind the wall, but I can imagine settling there to write a book, a steaming coffee by my side on an old wooden desk by tower window, overlooking the garden while birds flit in and out of the trees…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #111
During the holidays my Mum suggested a mini road-trip to a pretty village called Chavenay, that she had driven through by coincidence, not far from our home town. It’s funny how it always seems more exciting to go further afield, than to explore places closer to home. In this case, we enjoyed some fresh air and had a lovely time exploring, simply by jumping into the car after breakfast on a beautifully sunny morning and we were home in time for lunch:)
It was a cold and wintery, with frost on the grass and a misty haze spreading over the plain. The light was soft, gently casting long shadows already around noon.
I was captivated by the small clumps of moss along the frozen walls, which was half green where the sun was slowly melting the ice away.
We took a short stroll through the streets of Chavenay and headed to the outskirts to see the horses, grazing peacefully on the side of the hill overlooking houses and old barns. We had a lovely chat as we walked along the road, taking in the view and the beautiful surroundings.
Just a five minute drive from the house where I grew up, there is a forest where I love to take walks. There are several options: you can take the tarmac path straight into the heart of the forest, you can explore muddy side paths or you can walk right at the foot of the trees, your shoes sinking with each step into the deep layers of fallen leaves.
Today I mostly ignored the paths and spent the morning deep in the humid undergrowth, guided by every splash of colour or unusual shape, looking at the tiniest details to see what I could find. I was welcomed by trees, mushrooms, mosses and lichens of all types, as well as slugs patiently gliding along and snacking on mushrooms.
On my treasure hunt for beauty, there was just the sound of birds calling to each other. I felt perfectly in the moment, taking in all the beautiful colours and textures. I experimented with photographing what I came across, until my jeans were dirty and humid from kneeling down to get close to the forest floor.
Forest bathing is so healing. Looking at myself in the mirror when I got home I was glowing like I’d just had a long nap or a restorative massage, my body kindly reminding me, yet again, that I should surround myself with nature more often:)
A few more pictures from that morning when we went to see the sunrise at the beach. I want to remind myself of the luxury feeling of having the empty beach stretched out before us as we walked along with no destination, nowhere we needed to be at a specific time, just the freedom to stop and watch the waves crashing over and over again, or to examine the amazing patterns on huge jellyfish or the multitude of tiny stones and shells washed up on the shore. I want to bring more and more of this peace into my daily life, without having to go far to find it.