Clickety-clack    –   we’re heading back

Hello and welcome back to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on April 16th 2023.

This will be our last weekend in Le Shack until the autumn. We are heading back to Olivia Rose. On Tuesday we take the train from Tarbes in the bottom left corner of France to Valenciennes up in the top right corner, leaving at 6.45am and arriving at 4.30pm. Traversing the whole of France with just one change in Paris will cost us a total of 144€ for the two of us. It seems a good price.

Train travel in Europe is being supported by governments in a bid to reduce domestic flights and encourage people to take a more climate-friendly mode of transport. France has just banned domestic flights between cities that can be reached by train in less than 2.5 hours and Austria has followed suit with a similar policy. Belgium has increased duties on flights shorter than 500km. Germany will launch a low-cost 49€ monthly public transport subscription service in May. In Spain low-cost rail operators are rivalling budget airlines and Luxembourg has recently reached a milestone of three years of free public transport.

We are looking forward to our train trip and the thought of not sitting on motorways for hours on end. As someone who has not taken many train trips I still have a rather romantic view of it, enjoying the clickety-clack of the train on the tracks and the freedom of looking out of the window as the world rushes past without wondering which obscure detour the satnav will send us on next. We shall see how the reality matches up to my rose-tinted glasses!

For the moment we are trying to capture the essence of the tranquillity and beauty of our little slice of paradise before we leave it for a very different landscape. Olivia Rose is moored up in a large, industrial, busy town and the view from the marina is one of concrete rather than trees and rolling countryside.

We are still learning how to organise our lives living without the van. After a spell of glorious warm and sunny weather when cycling everywhere has been an absolute pleasure, we have had four days of gales and heavy rain. Each day we put off a shopping trip, hoping for a return to sunnier skies, but they never materialised so on Saturday we girded our loins and set off in a steady drizzle. It rained all the way to the supermarket, almost 10km away, stopped raining as we arrived and then started again just as we left for the return journey. Within half an hour of arriving home, suitably drenched, the sun came out!

Despite the tricks the weather likes to play I still love being on my bike. And I like the sense of having one less possession that costs me money. No more servicing, replacing tyres, or worrying about that persistent noise in the engine that nobody can explain or cure. It feels as if a load has been lightened somehow, although if you had asked me before we became car-less if I felt weighed down by it, I would have been slightly puzzled at the question. The responsibility of car ownership was just part of my life, but I guess it is only after making a big change, whatever it is, that you can stand back more objectively and notice the difference.

I will leave you with some pictures of flowers in the garden, images that I shall carry with me when I leave. I am already looking forward to planting up some pots on the boat, although the skipper tells me that they are ruining the paintwork on the deck so I may have to cut back a little. Or sneak them in when he’s not looking…..

A butterfly on the bluebells
Some last-minute daffs by the pond – all the rest have finished flowering
Mexican Orange Blossom about to come out

Hope all is well and looking forward to sharing the next blog from on board Olivia Rose.


18 thoughts on “Clickety-clack    –   we’re heading back

  1. Train travel is my favorite public transport. I love the sound and rhythm, the views, and one can get up to walk around to get the circulation going. Europe has an admirable system, sadly lacking in the States. Hopefully, that will change, but I’m not holding my breath with our current Congress.
    Perhaps you could get some pot raisers (small terracotta feet to put around the edges of pots) to lift the pots off the deck and allow air circulation? Or you could try this DIY solution:


  2. Gosh! Free public transport in Luxembourg for three years. Mind you, where we live, it’s virtually nonexistent. I hope you enjoy your train trip. I love travelling by train. You see so much more of the countryside. Looking forward to the next posts from Olivia Rose.


  3. Salut,
    Heading back to France myself next week. We did a delivery trip along the east coast of the U.K. last week. It was only 300 NM but in the cold it felt like 3000. So decision was made to leave our yacht in Balaruc les bains for a while. I can use it as a residence to get a long stay visa which I hope o can convert to carte de sejours eventually. We are looking at motor cruisers for sale on France as our yacht is too deep for the canals. We live in NE Scotland, and what is becoming clear is Scotland sucks!!’ We need out of here!
    Happy sailing and I concur, bikes are great.
    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Hi Peter. Sounds like a good plan. We’ve certainly got no regrets about living here. Although we would still like to get back to Scotland for a visit one day. We used to often visit in May or Sept and loved it despite weather and midges. We’re spoilt here with the weather -it makes such a difference. Happy hunting with your motor cruiser and keep us posted. Hopefully we’ll bump into each other some day!


  4. We hope you are settled back on board Olivia Rose and everything is “a” ok….. Have you left port yet? Where are you headed? How have you managed with your solar panels from Le Shack to Olivia Rose via train trip, as we know you use them to charge everything… We have always enjoyed train trips to and from France, whether Eurostar or SNCF. We had a good trip by TGV from Dijon to Paris, it was a lovely ride, extremely cheap, beautiful countryside and very, very fast. Plenty of leg-room and we loved it. The Eurostar trip ended up being first class as their standard was full and we had it for the same price, with a salmon and wine lunch included – we were spoilt that day… Safe trip both. Le Shack garden looked beautiful….. look out autumn time!! A and G xx


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