Sunday 2 December 2012

November photo a day albums

Here are our albums for this November.
Another mixed month of weather - some lovely warm autumn sunshine and just recently, much colder temperatures and quite a lot of snow appearing on the mountains. Maybe it will be a good year for skiing!

We held a Christmas craft fair here last weekend, which was great fun and well attended.  It was good to see so many familiar faces here, but we also made new friends and met more local people, both English and French. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, so maybe it will become an annual St Victor Rouzaud event!
We hope you enjoy the photos - one more month to go!!

Lesley's Album

Dave's Album

Thursday 1 November 2012

October photo a day album 2012

Here are our albums for this month and a few extra's above as well.....putting away the garden furniture, yet another morning sky - and a moody, misty day in London.
We are in the UK at the moment, driving back to France next week. It appears that winter has arrived in our absence!

Lesley's album

Dave's album

Sunday 9 September 2012

Two mountain walks

We have recently done another couple of very scenic walks in the Pyrenees. 

Yesterday we drove up the Aston Valley as far as you can go to the Pla de las Peyres  and walked up to the Etangs de Fontargente. It was a long drive which is not tarmaced for a large section at the end, but it was well worth it to get to this more remote area of the mountains. We went with friend Jean Paul  -  it was good to have a guide who knows the mountain well. The climb took just under 2 hours and wasn't difficult. The lakes were absolutely beautiful - even on a slightly overcast day. The water was incredibly clear and it was very peaceful up there. We spent a couple of hours having a picnic and exploring around the lakes before returning to the car - with thunder rumbling behind us and one or two heavy showers of rain!!

The previous Saturday, Dave was in England for the weekend so I went up to the Soulcem valley where we have been before, again with Jean Paul as my guide. This was a bitterly cold but very sunny day which made for very clear conditions. We again climbed up to a couple of lakes, which was well worth it, but the clamber back down on a very rocky track made for very wobbly knees!!

Photos of both walks can be seen here

Monday 27 August 2012

Basque coast holiday

After a very busy couple of months, we found we had a few days off last week, so treated ourselves to a short break to the Basque coast. 
We dug out our tent and camping equipment which last saw the light of day in New Zealand in 2010 and booked in at a small family site just inland from St Jean de Luz which was clean and efficiently run. We soon slipped into the camping routine again. The positive side being breakfast outside the tent - the negative trooping off to the wash-block at bedtime armed with toothbrush and loo roll!

We spent 3 days of non-stop sightseeing - St Jean de Luz and the coast-line north and south, Spain and the city of San Sebastian, the very picturesque Basque villages, the ever present mountains, Biarritz and Capbreton. August is very high season so there were tourists everywhere, but a nice atmosphere and very warm weather, if a bit hazy at times.
Some photos of our trip are here

Wednesday 1 August 2012

A couple of walks in the mountains

We have had a couple of good hikes in the Pyrenees over the past week. The first was with Daniel and Phil to a mountain lake with the most beautifully clear water. The second was to the Pic de Tarbesu, a peak about an hour's climb from the Col de Pailheres. This was a lovely walk for a hot day - a welcome breeze and then 360 degree views at the top

July photo a day albums

July has yet again been a busy month. We have enjoyed having lots of visitors - friends, family and guests. 
Will add a few more words in a day or two when we are less busy - but for now, here are our photos for the month

Lesley's album

Dave's album

Sunday 1 July 2012

June photos a day albums

June has been a bit or a whirlwind - both socially and weather-wise!!

Lucy and Andy continued to enjoy a week of mostly warm and sunny weather, with the exception of Sunday 3rd June when it appeared to be raining over the whole of Europe. While London shivered in the cold and rain for the royal Jubilee river pageant, we toasted the Queen's 60 years in suitable fashion at a wonderful garden party hosted by Lucy and David at the chateau. We sheltered from the rain in their spacious barn and enjoyed a very English lunch and good company.

When the sun returned on the Monday, we took Lucy and Andy to the beautiful Orlu valley for a walk and Marmot spotting.

Other social events this month have included an 'end of year' dance party where I and the others in my rock group performed our group dance. Fun but scary!!  We watched the England/France Euro 2012 match with friends and have since enjoyed several balmy evenings over aperos, barbeque's and meals with both English and French friends as well as chambres d'hotes guests throughout the month.  Several spells of hot and sunny weather have been brought to an end each time by quite ferocious and at times damaging storms. In fact the thunder is rumbling as I write!

A couple of the storms took us by surprise and have been quite localized with some areas experiencing torrential rain and hail, while just a mile or two away it remains dry. Our photos of the month tell more of the story! The grass still needs cutting regularly, but at least the vegetables are putting on a spurt as well, enjoying the mix of sun and rain.

Thursday 21st June is celebrated all over France by music events. We went to local town Saverdun to see Jean Paul's band 'Shaker' play. The event was organised by the rugby club so they had a good crowd there and the music was excellent. We are looking forward to hosting a party here next Saturday at which 'Shaker' are going to play. Fingers are crossed for a dry evening!

Here are our photos for this month

Lesley's album

Dave's album

Friday 1 June 2012

May photo a day albums

It has been another mixed month of weather with some warm sunny days and some very wet rain!! The grass is still growing rapidly, but so are vegetables and flowers. The lupins and roses are quite incredible at the moment!
The above photos were taken near the beginning of the month on a bike ride near La Maire. The snow on the mountains is now melting quicky so we have also been able to enjoy a couple of walks in the Pyrenees. Late Spring is a great time for walking  here - the rivers and waterfalls are bursting with meltwater and the colours are quite intense.

We enjoyed a brief 6 day break in the UK to see the family in the middle of the month and now that we have returned, are experiencing  some hot and sunny days - lucky for Lucy and Andy who are here to visit us for a week. 

Here are our photos for this month

Lesley's album

Dave's album

Sunday 15 April 2012

15th April 2012

Here we are in the middle of April already and the the weather is very typical of the month. Heavy rain and thundery showers interspersed by some lovely spring sunshine - and a few grey days as well. As a result everything is growing incredibly quickly - grass and flowers - but also the weeds! The top photo above is of the rockery with tulips in full bloom and the mountains still very much covered with snow.

We have had a busy couple of weeks with guests - English, Spanish, Belgian and French so far and we have had some very enjoyable and interesting dinners with them. It is the school holidays here so we have had a couple of French families here for a few days exploring the area which was lovely.

At the beginning of the month we were invited to the annual hog roast up at the farm along with all the local farmers who hunt in the area and help chop down trees. All the men received a 'trophy', beautifully made by Thomas -Dave received one for the 'best English lumberjack' for having helped them last month!

This happy event was followed by a disaster up at the farm. Their huge hangar full of hay went up in flames after some fuel exploded. Dave ran up there to help when we saw the smoke and within minutes all the other local farmers had arrived to help as well. The fire brigade arrived just in time to stop the flames engulfing the cattle barn. The fire was huge. Luckily no-one was hurt but the hangar and two tractors and some machinery were completely destroyed, as well as all the hay. Six fire engines continued working through the night to contain it. Despite being well insured, a fire like this is devastating - the hay cannot be quickly replaced and life and work has to continue despite rebuilding. It has astounded us how readily everyone rallies round to give whatever help they can. Over the next few days neighbours continued to call at the farm to lend machinery and to give them the much needed hay. Cleaning up will start next week.

On Easter Monday we were able to get out for a short walk near Foix from a little village called Caraybat. The valley looking up towards Montsegur looked beautiful in the spring sunshine. We climbed up to some interesting needle-like 'dolomite' rock formations which dominate the village. There are a couple of photos of the walk above.

Dave has been kept busy cutting the grass and making some minor repairs to the mower, strimmers - and even the Land Rover....but luckily nothing too serious! He has also taken up his old hobby - fishing. The sea is a little far away for a days fishing so he went locally to Lake Mondeley early yesterday morning to try out his new spinning rod. The trout were not really interested - but he did manage to land a large pike. The fish managed to get away before Dave could get hold of it, but Dave assures me it counts as 'a catch'!!

Sunday 18 March 2012

March far!

A wet Sunday afternoon here, and Dave is watching the Grand Prix highlights - so time for a blog update!

We returned to La Maire on 2nd March with Daniel and Lucy and were lucky enough to have a warm and sunny day-warm enough for an al fresco lunch! We spent the following day (Daniel's birthday) in the mountains. The mist on the Col de Port slowly cleared so we were able to 'climb a mountain' in the sun after a picnic in the car.
We then spent 4 wonderful days skiing in Soldeu with our fair share of sunshine and a few centimetres of fresh snow- as well as bitterly cold temperatures in the wind.

On our return we were all invited to dinner at the farm. The meal was excellent - mostly produce from the farm and beautifully cooked. They were great company - and we even had some live entertainment - a cow up at the farm was about to give birth so it was relayed onto the TV so they could keep an eye on it. The calf turned out to be a very large male so the men had to make a quick dash up there to help out - the French men, that is!! Mother and baby were both fine!

The skiing season doesn't last for long - so last week we were pleased to be able to spend a couple more days at Soldeu, with friends Melanie and Steve this time. The weather had turned from winter to spring in a matter of days - so variable snow conditions, but plenty of opportunities for refreshments in the sun!

Other events this month....
Last weekend Dave was invited to go wood chopping with Denis and some of the other farmers. They started at 8am with coffee and doughnuts, had a break mid-morning for baguettes, saucisson, cheese, wine etc, then returned to the farm for a slap-up lunch at 2pm. It was also very hard work (apparently!) so Dave was not really on top form for the dance club party and dinner that we had arranged to go to that evening - however, a glass of sangria and a bit more food soon perked him up!

Yesterday evening we joined friends at a bar in Pamiers yesterday in celebration of St Patricks day. Friends' sons Tristan and Alex performed and Tristan led a sing-a-long of some Irish songs (helped by Dad Neil!).
Local 'celebrity' 'Buffalo Bill' soon joined in playing the spoons - great fun was had by all!

Other news - Dave has cut the grass - twice!! .....and he has got his shorts out!

Sunday 19 February 2012

19th February 2012

Ax les Thermes

After another heavy snowfall here on Tuesday morning, temperatures started rising and the thaw was on the way, much to everyone's relief! By Thursday most of the snow had disappeared.

On Friday afternoon we had a lovely drive up to Ax les Thermes. Snowfall had been much heavier up there and it looked beautiful in the sun. We had arranged to meet Jean Paul and Magali at the Thermal baths - a new experience for us! We enjoyed two hours of relaxation in water ranging from 33 - 38 degrees. There is a large roman style indoor bath with water jets and jacuzzis, as well as panoramic outdoor pools. We even tried the 'caldarium' (very hot water) and 'vaporarium' (steam room) ......but drew the line at the 'frigidarium' after dipping a toe in!!!
We stopped at a restaurant for a pizza on the way home - so a perfect afternoon!

Saturday 11 February 2012

Well the big freeze that appears to have hit the whole of Europe has reached the Ariege as well!

The snow started at the end of last week, with a heavy fall on Sunday. Since then the sun has come out, but with the biting wind it has been extremely cold. Dave has been coaxing the boiler into doing its best and trying to curb its is eating twice as many wood chips in this weather, but at least the house is warm! The boiler did go on strike last weekend - it seems it has never experienced cold like this before! Dave spent most of the day sorting out the problem, which turned out to be a frozen pipe! We were lucky that was the only problem!!

We decided to make the most of the conditions on Thursday and went to Andorra for a good days skiing. It was actually warmer up there in the mountains and sitting on the chair lifts with the wind behind us and the sun on our faces was absolute bliss!!

The snow, sun and extreme cold have made for an absolutely beautiful landscape and we have wrapped up warm every day to get out and take our February 'photo a day'!!
Until we publish those at the end of the month, here are a few of the 'rejects'!

Tuesday 31 January 2012

January photo a day albums

We are both attempting to take a photo a day throughout this year and will put our 'albums' up on the blog at the end of each month. On some days we felt more inspired than on others, but here are the first 31 for January.

Lesley's album

Saturday 28 January 2012

28th January 2012

Last Sunday we drove to the little village of Moussoulens in the Aude to sample a little bit of traditional French life. It was the annual truffle fete. There were many stalls serving food and local crafts, as well as wine tasting. But the main event, the sale of truffles, started at 2.30pm, and not a second before! The 'delicacies' themselves were carefully unwrapped about 5 minutes before the sale was allowed to begin. In the meantime the crowd had been gathering in anticipation with cash at the ready and cameras clicking frantically. When the sale was finally allowed to begin, it was a bit of an anti-climax, for us anyway. It was very calm and good-humoured - but huge amounts of cash changed hands. Being able to cultivate truffles here must be a sure way to get rich quick!
You can see some photos of the event in our album below

We have had some lovely weather again this week, but it's all changing this weekend, with snow forecast for tomorrow and temperatures dropping. However we made the most of the of the sun today and drove up to the little village of Larcat, between Tarascon and Ax. We followed a recommended 2 hour circular walk up to the little Chapel of St Barthelemy which is situated in the most wonderful spot. Apparently an outbreak of cholera in the area in 1854 provoked the decision to kill a local family infected by it to prevent it spreading. As atonement and in commemoration, this little chapel was built -so a tragic story, but such a tranquil place. There had been a dusting of snow overnight as well, which made the walk even more beautiful and atmospheric. When we reached the snow-line we went from warm sun into a snowy winter woodland -beautiful!
As a reminder of life as it used to be in this area when the villages were more highly populated and people had a much greater need even than now to live off the land, the agricultural terracing of the valley is still very evident. This can be seen in a couple of the photos in our album here

Sunday 15 January 2012

January 15th 2012

We had a good journey back to La Maire on 3rd January, despite driving through the storms sweeping across the UK and northern France. We left Maidenhead at 5am and arrived here before 9pm which was good going - probably the best drive yet!

The last couple of weeks have been mostly dry and sunny with the occasional morning frost. The countryside has a very different look at this time of year. Now that all the leaves are down, the fields are empty of crops and the verges all cut back and tidied it looks very pristine and open - and surprisingly green. The snowy mountains also look very close in the clear air.
We had another walk on Tuesday at the Prat d'Albi, the summit just the other side of Foix last week. Lisa joined us for a really enjoyable walk and picnic. Incredible views again - see the photo above.

We have also spent some time driving around the local area delivering leaflets to publicize our chambres d'hotes, watercolour classes and picture framing. On leaving the neighbouring village on Thursday we saw a hot air balloon - quite an unusual occurrence here! It was starting to descend so we drove uphill hoping to see it land. We were in luck - it came down in a field right next to the road. It was clearly such an unusual event for the cows in the field that it caused a stampede! Dave was lucky enough to have his camera on him - so a photos will appear in his 'photo a day' at the end of the month.

The next job in the house is to put up some bannisters around the stairs in the attic, which we are using as my picture framing workshop. Suitable wood is very expensive to buy, but luckily Dave found some old pieces of manger in the stables which are perfect for the job. He is cleaning them up ready to put in place - they should make a nice feature as well as serving a purpose!

Yesterday evening we were invited to dinner with Jean Paul and Magali, along with Jean Paul's sister and brother-in-law. It was a very lively and enjoyable evening - speaking both French and English, and the time flew by. We could hardly believe it was 1.30am when we got up to leave!
We love the way that aperitifs are often the most important part of the meal here. We had a choice of champagne and 6 different kinds of whisky - so Dave was in his element!The meal was also delicious!

Today we went out for a local bike ride to clear our heads! We explored a different route out from La Maire, up through the forest following the St Jacques de Compostelle route, then back down through the country lanes - beautiful!!

There are a few more photos of the month so far here