Winter draws (drawers) on

On Friday, Len and I carried a metric tonne between us. It’s the time of year when everyone’s thoughts turn to stocking up with wood for the winter – not that it’s cold at the moment, the hot days are blissfully continuing.  We have a stove in the entree that runs on wood pellets and the local SuperU has a special offer on at the moment, €3.85 per 15kg bag instead of €4.25 or more that most shops are charging. However, the offer only stands if you buy a whole pallet of one tonne. ‘Do you deliver?’ ‘No we don’t.’

So a warm afternoon saw us driving to SuperU with the trailor attached to the car, loading 500kg of pellets into the trailer, driving home and unloading them into a pigsty, then repeating the process. We even managed to persuade the shop worker to let us have some broken bags of pallets for nothing, so all in all it was a very good buy, if a little exhausting.

Oh, and the draws/drawers is an old family play on words, drawers being knickerbockers which go down to the knee, much beloved by my father. They would hang on a drying rack in the kitchen for all the world to admire.

You never knows when you’ll meet some cows on the road!

We lived for a while in Newbury and Len had oversight of a little country chapel. One of the stalwarts was around 80 and used to drive extremely slowly down the country lanes. When questioned he would say with a good west country accent ‘You never knows when you’ll meet some cows on the road’.

I thought of him this morning as I set off down our little road. First of all I met an oncoming car at a bend and had to back to allow it to pass, then I saw John, an Englishman who lives nearby, taking his dog and pony for a walk in the middle of the road. Apparently the pony is on a diet and is not allowed to eat too much grass.  At other times we meet huge pieces of farm equipment, combine harvesters or lorries laden with hay. And of course, with stables nearby, riders often pass by on their horses.

Day 5 Heading north to the Limousin

We discussed the British Royal family over breakfast and whether the french republicans are actually more addicted to them than the Brits. Karen, our  host, told us about an article she had written for the Brazilian press about Sarkozy’s disastrous visit to the Queen, which was rapturously received.

On her recommendation we set off the buy some Cahors wine from Chateau Laur not far away. Len enjoyed talking vintage and grapes to the owner while he prepared his most expensive wines for us to taste. After a lot of discussion we filled up the car boot. I confess that apart from the 2008, I couldn’t really tell much difference between them.

The vigneron at Chateau Laur playing with his lovely setter puppy.

Medoc grapes waiting to be harvested and made into Cahors wine.

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Silent Night

On Wednesday night severe storms swept tents and caravans away at a camping site in the Herault in the south of France. We had seen the flashes of lightning in the distance over the evening meal. Since this Chambres d’hotes is built on a hill you can see for miles.

Last night, before going to bed, I opened the window and watched the night. There were a lot of stars but no constellations that I recognised. Three or four planes were twinkling their way across the sky, in complete silence. And on the horizon the lightning bolts continued at frequent intervals, lightning without thunder since it was so far away. All I could hear was the rustle of the wind in the trees and the crickets.

Day 4 THE MORGAN !!!

This is what we came to Lot and Garonne for, to hire a Morgan for the day, for Len’s birthday. We picked it up soon after 9 and spent quite a while being instructed on how to drive it, how to put the rain hood up, how the brake works …….

All ready to set off. 

The weather kept up for us and reached 27 degrees in the afternoon. Lots of drivers flashed their lights in recognition and we toured several lovely villages and managed to get the car back safe and sound. This is the view from inside.

Tomorrow we start heading home.

Day 3 A long trek from La Rochelle to the Garonne

After a leisurely breakfast and more french conversation, we set off for the next Chambres d’hotes near Bergerac. Our progress down the narrow country lanes was hindered by a ”convoie exceptionelle’, a big lorry carrying an absolutely enormous boat. The boat was the exact width of the road so a front rider van was making sure that all oncoming traffic disappeared into the ditches at the side. The hulls of the catamaran almost touched the road and from time to time the whole load would slide over at an angle and we were convinced the boat was going to fall over. The back rider van veered from left to right across the road checking that the boat was safe. Then we came to a bridge. The lorry edged forward. There can’t have been more than 2 inches spare between the boat and the bridge but he got through. Then another bridge, then stopping all the oncoming lorries so that the boat could go left round a roundabout. Our nerves couldn’t take any more and we made a detour to Rochefort to look around and enjoy a glass of orange.

Our next stop was at a town in the ‘marais’/marshes that was fortified by Louis X111 and Cardinal Richelieu. The drive was lovely (no boats) along narrow country lanes bordered by an elaborate canal system. There were lots of egrets in the fields. The town of Brauge has walls all the way round and the narrow cobbled roads with white houses and pale blue or green shutters are reminiscent of the Isle de Re. Someone from the town had set off to found the city of Quebec and the church stained glass windows told the story.

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Day 2 La Rochelle

 

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and a long chat in french with our hosts, about politics, repairing houses, getting planning permission, problems with mud silting up La Rochelle harbour ……..  They recommended lots of places for us to visit so we set off and parked by the old port. We then spent most of the day looking round the town – streets of three story stone buildings, some with arcades, some with gargoyles for gutters. We climbed the lantern tower which was once used as a lighthouse, saw a Henri 11 house, the lovely stonework on the Hotel de Ville and the rather disappointing cathedral. By 4pm we were visited out and decided to take a boat trip to the Isle of Aix and Fort Boyard. It made a very refreshing change. There are nearly 4 thousand yachts harboured at La Rochelle. The weather is still lovely. Curry mild french style before heading back to Chambres d’hote.

 

First day of our short break – La Rochelle

We arrived at our Chambre d’hotes near La Rochelle around 3pm after a lovely drive. Our hosts are a pleasant Parisian couple who live in a quiet suburb. At least it was quiet until the powers that be decided to build a college within a few metres of their back garden. There is now a huge crane overlooking the site and a concrete monstrosity with windows looking in their direction.

We spent a pleasant evening in La Rochelle, climbing up one of the harbour towers, Contine reading

Long-tailed tits and other birds

On a lovely sunny day last week I was hanging out the washing in the garden, enjoying the peace and beauty of the place, when I heard a ‘squeak-squeak-squeak’ from the crab apple tree. This was followed by more squeaks and what looked like blue-tits, hopping around the tree. I stood very still and after a while was able to observe one of them up close and I realised it was a flock of long-tailed tits.

I’ve always been interested in birds but found it very frustrating because you could so rarely see them clearly to be able to distinguish them. so I was delighted when someone introduced me to the Chirp app for the Ipad. It has a recording of about fifty birds so you can check what you hear. It also has a wonderful Puffin, laughing its head off!

As a result of this app, I have been able to identify in our locality, chiff-chaffs, chaffinches, golden orioles, huppoes, black redstarts, cirl buntings, green woodpeckers and of course, the usual sparrows, starlings and blackbirds.

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