Ring Around the Pyrenees

I don’t like plans.

Personally, I prefer to go with the flow. I don’t have a bucket list like my friend Sam, and I don’t even have a 5 year plan like most people in their mid twenties. I like to tell myself that it’s because I’m a free spirit, but others tell me it’s because I’m lazy or impractical.

But now I remember why I hate plans: it’s because if one thing goes wrong, then the whole thing’s up in the air. 

Something like a  car crash, for instance. Suddenly our two week break involving a week in Silves via a few nights in Porto became impossible, as we had to travel back to Edinburgh and wait for our new car to be ready.

But when life gives you lemons you have to throw them back in life’s face and say “screw you, life, I’m going to do what I want!”

So we made some new travel plans. I’m hoping that I’m not going to jinx them by putting a wee map up here on the blog, but how awesome do the next few days look?

Adventure

Starting in Salies de Bearn to meet the lovely couple we’re house sitting for.

Three nights in San Sebastian for James’s birthday, where we’ll munch pintxos and drink txakoli.

One night in Zaragozza.

Two nights in Barcelona, where we’re staying on a yacht.

One night just outside Perpignan.

One night just outside Toulouse.

Then back to Salies de Bearn, getting ready for house sit number two!

Is it anal that I chose those destinations just because they make a wee circle around the Pyrenees?

Well it’s like that old saying…

Manot Music of the Night

When we arrived in the small Charente town of Roumazieres-Loubert we didn’t expect there to be much to do on the average Tuesday evening.  We were glad to be proven wrong. Just a short ten minute drive up the road, just outside the town of Manot, a group of expat musicians get together every week to play music for tourists and locals alike. Free music, local wine, and a barbeque: why not?

Manot music of the night

So we threw our camping chairs in the back of our car and headed off into the countryside in search of the Manot music of the night. Follow the sign for Manot, then Village Vacances, turn left and follow the sign for the Moulin: down a dodgy dirt road with a barrier you must go under. You can’t miss it. Well, you can, but as Annie the keyboard player said “if you can see the river you’re close, if you’re in the river you’ve gone too far!”

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The Montbron Night Market (Marche de Nuit Montbron)

Our first few days in the Charente taught us that no matter how rural a region is, there’s usually something awesome going on. Fresh from the laid back atmosphere and general good time of Manot’s ‘Music of the Night’ (more on that tomorrow), our new friends Terry and Louise recommended that we check out Montbron’s annual night market on the coming Friday. The way they spoke made it sound like a small local affair, but I wrote down the time and the place anyway and  decided to Google it later to find out more.

Marche de Nuit Montbron Night Market

I couldn’t find much information about the Montbron Night Market online, apart from a couple of posts from a few years ago on expat forums. Finally I found an article that claimed for the 2012 Montbron Night Market there would be fifteen to eighteen thousand visitors. It sounded like an awful lot, so I kind of laughed it off as a typo.

Then we arrived.

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Confolens: Pitlochry’s Hot French Twin

The Scots and the French are old pals:  our relationship goes way back to the Auld Alliance (up until 1906 we even had dual nationality with each other, and the French word for no ‘non’ sounds a bit like the way we say no ‘NAW’).

Despite this special relationship, it was still a bit of a surprise when I saw the sign outside the pretty town of Confolens boasting that it’s twinned with Pitlochry of all places. Apparently the two towns have a lot in common. They’re both rural, and both boast beautiful scenery. But although they’re both pretty, Confolens is hot!*

Confolens

* By hot I mean 30 degrees in the shade during August hot, which is probably average by most standards. 

Confolens is only a short drive from the area we’re house sitting in, so we decided to pop into Pitlochry’s hot French twin for a nosey.

Unfortunately for us we arrived on a Monday, and the French don’t really like to ‘open’ anything on a Monday. I suppose they’re still recovering from Sunday’s excesses of… not opening anything. Hm.

Still, in weather like this and in a town this beautiful, who cares if nothing’s open? There’s plenty to look at outside…

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Things I Learned Camping in Noirmoutier

Before starting our house sitting adventure, we decided to take a few days to relax. And where better than the island resort of Noirmoutier in the Vendee, where the French go on holiday? The camp site (Indigo) had luxury teepee options available to rent; but we’re a simple folk and decided that we’d be okay in a two man tent. I did bring the air mattress of course. Comfort is key.

Camping on Noirmoutier
Not a bad set up, really!

Within a couple of hours, I’d already learned a few valuable lessons.

  • I should charge my camera before leaving home 🙁
  • Reversing into a post will leave a dent in the car, and make James really huffy
  • It is impossible to get clean when you’re camping in a sandy pine forest. The showers are full of mud, the ground is dirty; just forget being clean ever again
  • Getting dressed whilst unable to stand up, and on an air mattress, is pretty frickin’ difficult
  • Sand + flip flops = very painful blisters
  • No sunscreen + lying around on the beach = very painful sunburn
  • What you save on accommodation, you spend on food

…And Things I’m Not Going to Miss About Edinburgh

I’ve already spoken about how much I love Edinburgh and the things that I’m going to miss the most, but why would I leave if things are so peachy? Well, these are the things that convinced me it was time to make a move. So long, suckas!

The Tram Works

I know, I know, everybody in Edinburgh moans about the trams. Put another record on, Porter. Well you try living in a city that’s been dug up countless of times for a ridiculously pointless scheme that has come to nothing.

The small businesses on Leith Walk were all but destroyed when the tramworks first made their appearance, and now it turns out that the much maligned route isn’t even going further than Elm Row.

The thing I find most ludicrous about this is that Edinburgh has an excellent bus service. A bus service which was implemented, by the way, when it was realised over half a century ago that trams were not right for Edinburgh and the original tram lines were paved over. D’oh.

Then there’s the fact that you can walk across the city in less than five hours. Edinburgh is not a bustling metropolis: we’re a tiny wee place!

I reckon it’s a punishment for voting against road tolls. Again, Edinburgh’s a tiny city.  There is only traffic congestion between 8:15-9:15am and 5pm-6:30pm. OR when there’s tramworks.

Basically, I will never get on a tram and I will never vote for any party aside from the SNP who were against the scheme. They got voted down by Labour and Lib Dem who saw it as a sort of a vanity project. Great work, guys. Oh and don’t get me started on the Lib Dems…

If you think the trams are rubbish too, there’s a swell Facebook page you can join to scrap the Edinburgh trams. I guess it’s a bit late for that though.

Workin’ Nine til Five (Thirty)

Am I the only one who finds sitting in an office totally demoralising? I’m sitting here behind a desk staring at a screen counting down the hours until I can go outside and spend half an hour in the sunshine. Since starting my office career I’ve put on at least 2-3 stone. Here’s me in June 2009 (I was still a lazy greedy alcoholic sod back then)

And here’s me again at the start of 2012.

I suppose being three years older could be an excuse for growing a paunch, but I think it’s far more likely to be the fact that I’m sitting on my arse all day. Previously my job involved standing behind a supermarket deli counter for 8 hours, lifting heavy boxes of cheese back and forth across the shop floor.

I hate mornings. I hate being told what to do. I hate pointless phone calls and meetings that are only held so that you can say “yeah, I did something today.”

I’m not going to be kicking back and relaxing: don’t get me wrong. I’ve got a few money spinning (hopefully) projects in the pipeline so might even end up working longer hours like other budding online “entrepreneurs”. The difference is, it will be on my own terms.

So why can’t I do that in Edinburgh?

Well, at the moment I’m working so that I can spend my wages on working. 80% of what I earn goes towards rent, car, busses, general household expenses, phone-bill. All told I usually have about £300 to spend over the course of the month, so by payday I’m scraping pennies together to pay for a packet of cup-a-soup. There’s no way I’ll make enough money from online endeavours to pay rent in Edinburgh so I’m not even going to try.

The Price of Wine

As much as I love the Scottish government for shielding us from the worst that Westminster is doling out, there is one policy that I’m really not on board with; the higher taxation of alcohol. I’m not a wino: I drink a lot, but I drink because I truly enjoy wine. I love trying to pick out the flavours and trying to identify a wine based simply on region and terroir.

However it’s impossible to get a decent bottle in Edinburgh for less than a tenner.  When James and I were in Portugal in March, we could pick up a gorgeous bottle of vinho verde for a couple of Euro. The governments trust people more in these countries to drink responsibly, not to get blootered because it’s cheap. If we want to tackle binge drinking, we’re going to need to create a real cultural shift and stop people thinking getting hammered is something to be proud of.

No, I Don’t Want to Publish Your Guest Post (and Here’s Why)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m sick to the back teeth of getting the exact same email from Linkbuilders looking for a guest post. I know this is a food blog and not a place for me to rant about digital marketing and SEO, but as an online geek you’re going to have to indulge me for a minute.

Replying to these fools and telling them that I actually am a freelance SEO copywriter and an online marketing professional  myself, and I understand that a link is actually quite valuable to them, only results in me getting sarky replies such as:

"You peoples are business peoples with less idea of writing emails to a writer whom you don't know"

“You can’t be a marketing person. Else you would not have spend so much time for replying to such a act which you don’t want to do or it can be your overconfidence speaking.”

and

“Also I am very sorry for wasting my time, I really find it very bad feel very bad just because you peoples are business peoples with less idea of writing emails to a writer whom you don’t know.” 

These are genuine replies from people who are claiming to be writers. If you would like to see a 500 word blog post from these illiterates do let me know: I get a few emails from them every week.

So I thought I’d deconstruct one of the emails here on my blog, for the benefit of anyone in link-building: here’s how not to treat with bloggers. My comments in italics, theirs in bold.

Hallo, this is where they should have put in my name. My site is called ‘Jemma Eat World’, how hard can it be to deduce my name?

I was just going through few sites and blogs previous day yesterday- a good copywriter won’t use two words where one will do and came across your site ” http://www.jemmaeatworld.com/ “. I really liked the way you have presented your site. I was reading some of your content and really found them informative.

Really? That’s fab! It’s probably because I write about topics directly affecting me, rather than researching things via Wikipedia, and whenever I let my friends guest post they do the same thing.

So I was just wondering if I can also do something for your site. Actually I am a freelance content writer With that spelling and grammar, you could have fooled me and I love writing articles as a hobby on topics related to food, restaurant an all that topic.

You write articles as a hobby? You know some people actually pay people to do that.  Especially when the articles contain back-links.

What if I provide you with an unique article as a Guest Post absolutely FREE!! An article that will be informative for your readers.

An unique article? For free? Really? And here’s me paying the chimpanzees at Edinburgh Zoo to write all of my content! Thank you so much!

The article will be related to your website and will be appreciated by your visitors and readers.

I’m glad you know what they’ll appreciate, cos I sure as hell don’t. 

It would be great if you can add a small BIO of mine at the end of the article with my related site’s links.

With a nofollow tag of course? I mean, since you’re giving me this article for free, and since copywriting is just a hobby for you, I’m guessing the links aren’t for SEO purposes. And I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to get in trouble with Google for selling links, especially since you’re not giving me any monies, right?

I guarantee you that the article will be 100% google copyscape protected and will be of around 500 words.

And here’s me thinking you were just going to copy and paste something over from About.com.

In all seriousness though, if you’re writing articles for blogs (whether it’s as a paid writer or as a hobby) I should bloody well think the content would be 100% copyscape protected. Plagiarism is wrong and can end up getting you in a lot of trouble; I know one company (who shall remain nameless) who had to pay out hundreds of quid because their copywriter was a bit lax when it came to changing a few words. 

Please let me know if this sound good to you, so that we can start working on your article.

Seriously? I’m not sure how this offer could sound good to anyone who’s serious about blogging. Your email to me was a train wreck, I can’t imagine how 500 words about ‘an topic related to food, restaurant an all that topic’ would be any different.

I understand that getting backlinks is an important part of SEO (and something that I’ve neglected myself) but I’m sure there are far better ways to go about it than sending impersonal emails to every blogger that you come across.

But then that’s just my 2 cents. What say you, internet?

Things I’m Going to Miss About Edinburgh…

Two weeks ago today I left Edinburgh, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.  Fresh from my best friend’s wedding hangover, I packed my stuff into our left hand drive car and drove off into the sunrise to begin (what I’ve started calling) my real life. It is quite scary: I’ll be 30 in a few years time and while all my friends are settling down I’m doing the complete opposite. No job, no home, no ring on it, and a belly filled with wine and cheese instead of baby.

Some people would say that quitting my reasonable job in the middle of this economic climate was a mistake, but I’ve spent the past few months so desperate for this it’s unbelievable. I even had a countdown written in my diary. I’ve been making preparations and laying the groundwork for months, and now that it’s here… Am I scared? I don’t know.

Until now I had lived in Edinburgh for my whole 26 and a half years. I’m going to miss a few things!

Continue reading “Things I’m Going to Miss About Edinburgh…”

WIN! Tickets to Edinburgh Foodies Festival 2012

COMPETITION CLOSED

in association with…
Well aren’t you a lucky bunch!

Lavazza Coffee got in touch with me to ask if I’d be interested in giving away a couple of pairs of tickets to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival (10th-12th August) on Jemma Eat World, and of course I said yes. Don’t say I’m not good to you, dear readers.

Since I’m currently hanging out in France I won’t be able to attend; but I did go to the  Edinburgh Foodies Festival last year and really enjoyed myself. The Edinburgh Foodies Festival is one of my favourite foodie events in Edinburgh, and has loads of great exhibitors and the chance to try something new. Last year I remember gorging myself on tagine, jerk chicken, and churros all washed down with a Fat Donny’s frozen margarita. Yum.

I have two pairs of tickets for the Edinburgh Foodies Festival, 10th-12th Aug 2012 to give away. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning a pair is leave a comment on this post about your favourite place in Edinburgh to grab a cup of coffee.

Two winners will be drawn at random, and I’ll make contact via email (so be sure to include a valid email address when you’re posting your comment).  Make sure you’ll be able to travel to Edinburgh and will be free to attend the festival next weekend; the 10th-12th August.

The winners will be announced via my Facebook page and Twitter feed on Wednesday 8th August, so if you haven’t already be sure to ‘like’ and ‘follow’. 🙂

Good luck, and be sure to say thank you to Lavazza, the sponsors of this competition, by joining them  at 11.15am  in the Drinks Master Class Theatre for an exclusive lesson on creating perfect Italian café quality coffee at home. They’ll be handing out special Lavazza goody bags with free samples and a money off voucher, too.

Find out more about the Edinburgh Foodies Festival here

Terms & Conditions

  1. Entry is restricted to one entry per person; multiple entries will be disqualified (especially those from automated competition entry bot things!)
  2. Entry is restricted to UK Residents who are able to travel to Edinburgh for 10th-12th August 2012
  3. Entrants will be responsible for their own expenses (e.g. travel to Edinburgh and accommodation)
  4. Jemma Eat World and Lavazza accept no responsibility for lost entries
  5. The prize is 1 x pair of tickets to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival 2012. No cash alternative is offered.
  6. The competition is running from 5th-8th August 2012
  7. Winners will be contacted by email
  8. Winners will be chosen by virtue of prize draw: the judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into