A blissful soak

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #190

Armed with our swimmers and a picnic containing an unreasonable amount of brioche and cake, my friend Eva and I took a long walk through the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen headed to the coast.

We sauntered through the woods and dunes, stopping here and there to lay out our picnic blanket in the shade for a snack and a peaceful chat. It was very calm, finally far away from the sound of traffic, and since it was a Thursday there were few people and many animals, undisturbed by our presence.  We even had the pleasure of quietly observing some kingfishers, flying speedily back and forth over the canal giving us glimpses alternatively of their bright blue wings and orange chest, and diving at lightning speed from a branch into the water to catch fish.

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The highlight of the day was dipping into the sea when we made it to the beach in the late afternoon sun.  After walking for several hours, a swim was exactly what my body craved.  It was divine to enter the water, feeling the sand and shells in between my toes, small waves lapping at my calves.  When we got deep enough and were ready, we finally surrendered our entire bodies to the cool water. Mine wasn’t what you’d call an active swim, no, it was a glorious release of every muscle into total relaxation, a blissful soak, the joy of floating along with my toes peeping up on the surface, carried by the sea.

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Dreamy colour palette

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sleeping snails

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #188

On a recent walk, I was searching for some interesting details to photograph and was rewarded with a few simple snails, napping peacefully on a leaf of their choice.  I love looking closely at their shells, admiring the texture and the elegance of the tight spiral. The lines on the snail below seem like they were hand-painted with ink.

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In an effort to better understand how ecosystems work, lately I’ve been looking up the role of different animals within them.  I am grateful for snails, who help with decomposition of organic matter and provide many of their prey with precious calcium.

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In my explorations down the internet rabbit hole of snail facts, I also discovered there is such a thing as aestivation, which is like hibernation but for summer.  When snails risk dessication because conditions are too hot or dry, they can go into aestivation to lower their metabolism until conditions improve.  I like this concept, and think I may adopt it as a perfectly good justification for these warm summer days when all I have energy for is napping in the shade:)

Montreuil-sur-Mer

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Seaside walks

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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.

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Back in France

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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!

Soft evening light

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #184

As we approach the longest day of the year, I love how the days stretch out, providing extra hours for my first alfresco boxing class since confinement has eased, or quiet after-dinner walks around the block when not many people are around.  The soft light and beautiful skies are a daily wonder.

A list of small pleasures

For today’s post I am thrilled to have collaborated with the illustrator Eva Polakovicova (Eva Pola Illustration & Design). She created these lovely illustrations to accompany my words, working by hand  combining her stencil technique and colour inks.  She did a wonderful job of capturing the joy of these small pleasures, and I am in love with this gorgeous colour palette♥

You can find out more about Eva’s inspiration and this technique in the interview we did back in January.

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #182

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Watching little groups of sparrows come to drink water on my balcony

The sound and smell of white wine evaporating from risotto rice

Lying down at the end of the day and relaxing into my pillow, knowing there is still time to read a good book

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Opening the mailbox and finding a postcard or an envelope from someone I hold dear

Having no plans and letting myself fall asleep in the sofa in the afternoon without setting an alarm

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Cooking with radish leaves and carrot tops and feeling like there is twice as much food and no waste

The smell of rain on the garden after a long dry spell

The lovely feeling of fatigue after several hours of walking or cycling in nature

Abundance

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #181

The Artist’s Way is a book I dive into regularly because of Julia Cameron’s deep wisdom (and humour!).  Recently I pulled it off the shelf and opened it at a random chapter as I often do, knowing it would provide me just the nugget of guidance I need. This time I landed on the chapter about ABUNDANCE, which made me laugh because I’ve also been pulling that word lately from my tiny pack of Angel cards… Clearly this is something for me to focus on at the moment;)

Interestingly some of the exercises from the chapter are about getting rid of things around the house.  I always need to get over that little voice in my head that whispers that I may need it later, the one that is scared I won’t have ENOUGH. It seems counter-intuitive at first to give away things to feel abundance. But there’s a reason why I’m not wearing the t-shirt or why my heart is telling me it’s fine to let go of some object I have lying around for years that I didn’t even choose myself.

Seeing the happy look on the face of someone who comes over to pick-up a second-hand purchase is always a pleasure. I can tell they will appreciate the object so much more than I do and it avoids one new item being put out into the world.  Also, after depositing several back-pack loads of books at the little free library, my bookshelves are lighter and more ‘me’.

Parting with all these objects has highlighted that I have more than enough, and as an added bonus, this clearing has created space for a few new things, chosen with care. This week I treated myself to new washi tapes, finally replenishing my collection which had dwindled to with quasi-finished rolls and dark colours.   I splashed out on the good quality ones with beautiful patterns and bright colours like neon pink, enough to decorate my journal and my snail mail for a long time ahead and I felt like I was spoiling myself in the best of ways:)

Cycling around Nieuw-West

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #180

In the nearly 14 years I’ve been living in Amsterdam, I’ve never seen such a long stretch of warm and sunny weather.  Yesterday, as it was a public holiday, the city was bursting with people which meant maintaining a safe distance was a challenge, so it was the perfect opportunity for a mini-adventure around the polder in Nieuw-West. It was a relief to escape to escape the crowds and take refuge in a much quieter area.

I love the feeling of freedom when pedaling without haste, being self-propelled with the light breeze and the warm sun on my skin. It felt so good to get away from the constructed part of the city and closer to nature.  We heard frogs croaking loudly among the reeds, passed large flocks of grey geese lounging in the grass by the canals and even saw a tiny baby Shetland pony.

We had a destination in mind, the beautiful Amsterdam Bee Park, but finding it out of bounds (for COVID-19 reasons) didn’t deter us from exploring the area.  Instead, we strolled along the wooden pathways of the poetically named Fluisterbos (Whisper Woods), which turned out not to be as calm as its name might indicate.  Then we found a quiet stretch of grass that we had practically to ourselves, where we could chill in shade and play Frisbee undisturbed:) A restorative bubble of calm before returning to the bustling city.

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Since we have more opportunities to explore close by due to the COVID situation, I really recommend to visit this area if you are looking for a day trip by bike from Amsterdam, there’s loads to do! See more info here, and for more of my own adventures: Fruit picking in Fruittuin van West, Local fresh fruit and Amsterdam Bee Park.