I was incredibly lucky to get to France and back, there were flight cancellations on either side of both coming and going! We had good weather (for walking that is, it was a mix of sun and cloud with some rain at night). As always the last day was the best, but it would have been too hot for walking, our Irish skin would have been fried.
The walking has left me in fantastic shape muscoskeletal-wise. My feet, however, are quite shabby looking, and my tummy did NOT like France. It was a combination of stressing about airports and getting to each stop along the way, not having my own toilet (I can't pee never mind anything else if someone is in the bathroom) and the difficulty in getting energy-dense tummy-happy vegan food in rural France. It didn't help that I was really hungry quite often, so ate too much too quickly.
The stress is something I have a long way to go with. I'm a perfectionist and I'm also pretty impatient. Perhaps a holiday were I had somewhere new to be everyday was not the best for me. Next time round I intend to base myself in one place (ideally coastal but rugged). The stressing out ain't going away anytime soon, so I should aim to try and outsmart the instinct a bit.
However, the south west of France is incredibly beautiful. It's hilly rather than mountainous, mostly river valleys and very wooded (deciduous). Between the woods are meadows full of a wide variety of wildflowers, I was amazed at the biodiversity compared to Northern Ireland. The villages were quite often Unesco protected, beautiful little medieval higgedley-piggedley places spilling into the rivers they straddled. So yes, it was worth getting a little jittery to see such great places. We also met some really cool people along the way, especially Sally and Chris, who we stayed with in Conques, and Ole, a Norwegian journalist who we met along the route and was staying at the same place as us one night.
I'll not go into detail on the bathroom troubles. Just that I will note my bowels were being weird but not my usual trouble, though not the opposite either. Weird. I'm pretty sure the changes were down to all the refined wheat I ate.
After a day's walking I was usually confronted with a small kitchen to be shared with 20 other ravenous walkers, so speed was the name of the game, and that usually meant pasta with tomato or olives or something chucked in. I'm sure there are better satisfying, quick-to-prepare post-hike dinners, my lack of imagination is partly to blame, therefore. Breakfast and lunch was usually bread. The only real fresh stuff I got was the odd banana or apple. Luckily in Toulouse I got some great vegan salad both before and after the walking. When we ate out in the villages, we mostly had walnut salads and cheeseless pizza (more wheat). French bread is incredibly good, but my tummy was really sick of it. It is hard to think of a better walking food, as it's light to carry and nice and carby. I didn't eat as much chocolate as I thought I would and I avoided nuts as I find they upset my tummy. This upsets ME greatly, but I think my tummy has won this battle of wills. Aa far as wheat goes, I as eating more before I went away as I thought pasta would be good running fuel. Before I went on hols I was having a new tummy problem and it now seems wheat products are to blame. So I will be relying on gluten free grains for my carbs, and in any case, I don't do so much running that I need to worry about a few percent difference in carb/fat/protein intake. In fact the higher protein grains/seeds I'll be eating will help recondition my muscles (especially my back and shoulder muscles) after all that walking with a backpack.
In conclusion, I have a few aims for the next few weeks to get my tummy back on an even keel:
Rice milk and minimal soy (only live soy yogurt although I will make some oat yogurt soon)
Lots of thickening agents (agar, kuzu, arrowroot) to sooth my colon. I was going to get psyllium husks but was afraid it would be too bulky in my gut.
Fruit breakfasts. I tend to have very well-paced, non-bloaty digestion if I eat fruit-based rather than grain-based breakfasts.
Oat bran (although not too often for breakfast)
Minimal wheat - I'll be having buckwheat or rice flour pancakes instead of bread
Rice, millet and quinoa instead of pasta
A healthful variety of raw veggies for lunch, with maybe some cooked non-gluten grains and some fatty/protein thing, like toasted seeds or hummus.
Plenty of healthy fats that my tummy can handle, i.e. hemp and olive oil and sunflower and pumpkin seeds but going easy on nuts and nut butters as I've stopped denying that these do upset my tummy.
No snacking and also following the 80% full rule, also some tummy yoga (thanks Maggie!)
Today, my tummy is better than it was yesterday which was the worst day but it's been spasming on and off all day, although without pain.
I started off with oat bran served with rhubarb jam (made myself from homegrown rhubarb) and a little live soy yogurt. I had some sneaky hazelnut coffee I picked up in France (also got some cherry chocolate tea but haven't tried this yet)
Later in the morning I had a fruit smoothie and a blueberry oat bar.
Then, after making hummus and pesto for the next few day's lunches, I made up a little mini-lunch/supersize snack of oatcakes, hummus, pesto, rocket and cucumber.
The pesto is amazing! It's basil, rocket, toasted sunflower/pumpkin/hemp/sesame seeds, olive oil and nutritional yeast, plus a little lemon juice, sel de gris and pepper. It really tastes like a parmesany pesto. I think it's because of the toasted seeds rather than the nooch. I'm glad I used them as I had thought of walnuts, but the seeds will be gentler on my tum.
For dinner, I had my favourite: coconut curry (broccoli and mushroom). The rest of the short grain brown rice has been turned into a pesto and crunchy veg (carrot, celery, cucumber, spring onion, yellow pepper) salad for lunch tomorrow. And now I'm off to the kitchen to make berry banana Birchermuesli for tomorrow's post run pre work breakfast-yum!
Speaking of running, I can tell after the walking my running will have moved up a gear. I feel really fit. I can't wait to get out again and will be aiming to do 3+ miles weekdays and a 8-10 miler at the weekend, with one off day.
Here are some holiday photos from our first day in Toulouse: