Half term in beautiful Cauterets, Hautes Pyrenees

img_2464Set off Friday February 9th stayed in Rouen, then arrived in Cauterets about 6pm. We stayed in the Hotel du Lion d’Or which is located in the center of Cauterets and much closer to the gondola than we were last year.  Cauterets is a lovely little spa town spread along the narrow valley of the Gave mountain stream and surrounded by the Pyrenees. The town is well known throughout France for its health giving thermal springs.  They are still used in the treatment of respiratory and skin diseases, rheumatism and many other ailments. We’ve not yet sampled the thermal baths and spa but it’s something I think is a must in the future.  The Hotel du Lion d’Or was a real gem. Family owned since 1913 and now run by the fourth generation of the Lasserre family. The hotel was built in 1840 and is full of authentic memorabilia in every nook and cranny.  The chap (I forget his name) who was the family member that we had most to do with was so helpful and welcoming to us.  Nothing was too much trouble and we felt at home immediately.

Lovely bedrooms, so homely in a French style, clean and fresh with a fantastic shower.  Breakfast was a buffet with an array of homemade pastries, marmalade (the best that grandma has EVER tasted) and yoghurts.  There was a huge fresh orange juice machine which involved crates of oranges being delivered to the hotel daily.  There were fresh meats, eggs, together with the usual tea, coffee and hot chocolate.  Yummy!

We’re a fairly fussy party of eaters (OK I’m a fussy eater – vegetarian and so is my son) so we decided to eat out in the town throughout the week.  The first evening we ate at the Bar L’Aragon, where we’d eaten last year and were happy with the food and service. Back again later in the week for another meal.

Sunday – Day 1 skiing

Left the hotel about 11. Lovely nights sleep and Lovely breakfast, taking full advantage of the fresh orange juice, boiled egg and homemade cakes and preserves.  My first time up the mountain and I began by falling off the chair lift, then proceeded to fall 4 times on the way down. Always being dragged to my feet like the proverbial sack of potatoes. I really should have done those thigh exercises. When we finally made it back to the café I had to sit on the floor hyper ventilating #oldladyonamountain glad I did it though and at this stage thought I might be able to concur the mountain. So proud of Callum who really takes advantage of the resort carving up the snow on his board🏂.  And hubby too, who has much more confidence than me.

  img_2469

In the evening we ate at Le Bistrot du Boulevard, Cal had crepes, hubby had duck and grandma and I had pizzas.

image

Monday – Day 2 skiing

First stop one of the many ski shops so that Cal could purchase some mittens because his hands had been so cold and wet the first day.  As a snow boarder, every time you come to a stop it means putting your arms down in the snow and it was so deep that the gloves he had were filling up with snow and making his hands freezing.  Got up the slopes about 10.30. The visibility was awful you couldn’t see in front of your nose. Cal went straight up the top of the mountain but hubby and I are stayed doing the lower slopes. It was really difficult to see and snow blind most of the time. Big snow drifts on either side of runs making them much narrower for novices like me. In the evening we ate at La Créperie du Moulleau.  Staff very friendly and all enjoyed their food but my cheese crepe was just so bland and boring.

Tuesday – Day 3 skiing

Now having been to the top of the mountain I really thought that this day would be my day to conquer it. I was wrong. Started the day with an egg as usual.  Had a practice run and then up the mountain with the boys. Unfortunately fell off the chair lift again as I was getting off and then off down the mountain which started off well but then it all went Pete Tong as the weather suddenly came in awful. Fell over in what was effectively a blizzard, hubby struggling to get me up and me struggling to get up. Then fell again. Once down didn’t feel like going up again. Saved by the fact that they closed the chair lifts because of the winds and visibility. Came back early to the hotel for a well deserved rest. Once we’d recovered it was into the town to eat.  First it was into my favourite spot for a vin chaud, La Cheeserie.  This is a tiny little place with only two rows of bar style seating and serving only cheese and meats.  Last year we ate here but grandma wasn’t a fan and even I can only have so much cheese.  Mind you we were very tempted with their warm Mont d’Or cheese dip which some other customers were delighting in.

Back to the hotel for an early night, this was definitely not a relaxing holiday. I’m jiggered already but the scenery is just stunning.

img_2467

Wednesday – Day 4 skiing

Felt like I’d lost my nerve the weather conditions were very bad. You couldn’t see anything. Just white snow blindness. I couldn’t face going up the mountain but hubby and Cal both did. Visibility so poor. I had a rest in the café, should say that everyday up the mountain we had drinks and snacks in the Station de Ski.  You did need to be in before 12 or after 2 to be able to get a seat.  Somehow none of the queuing bothered us as when you’re skiing you do get so used to queuing.  Aaarrrrrrgghhh!!!!

While I was waiting for the boys I thought do a bit of investigation into a possible trip to Lourdes.  Always fancied going there and did think about when were in Cauterets last year.  But, having done some research it appeared to be full of tacky religious souvenir shops so decided not to bother. Left the slopes about 3.30 again as the weather was so bad.  In the evening had another vin chaud at the Cheeserie. Then another meal at Bar L’Aragon.

img_2470

Thursday – Day 5 skiing

Arrived up the slopes to a helicopter, camera crews and many mountain rescuers together with their dogs.  What we didn’t know as we headed up the chair lift was that there was going to be some very sad news – 3 French skiers had been found dead in the morning.  Missing on Wednesday evening.  It appears that they had been skiing in an off-piste area and had been buried by an avalanche.

Once again I thought that this was going to be my day to conquer the mountain ⛰ And once again, that was not going to be the case.  Went up and got down without a fall and then went straight up again, bad idea. Disaster, fell and then became terrified and had to take my skis off and walk a long way down the mountain before I had the nerve to put them on again. What a mega wimp I am. So lost my nerve and had to recover in the café with a hot chocolate. In the evening we ate at a small restaurant that we’d had to book.  I can’t remember its name but once we’d been served the food I did realise that we’d eaten there last year.  Nothing special and I wasn’t over keen on the very lime green spaghetti pasta that they served with a very average arrabiata sauce.

Friday – Day 6 skiing

Up earlyish and on the slopes. I couldn’t face going up the mountain as it was icy and slushy. Did the lower blue runs. Tired legs and knees was part of my problem I think. Also different conditions again. Sunny and snow melting and icy underneath in parts. So very difficult to ski on.  But this didn’t stop Cal and hubby enjoying their last day of skiing.  Slush aside we will definitely be back next year.

Saturday day 7

The long drive back. Cauterets to Boulogne and then an overnight stop at our usual B&B hotel.

rocadeBordeaux

Sunday day 8

Boulogne to Harrogate via Euro Tunnel. #homewardbound

Advertisements

La Rentrée – Nous rentrons a l’Angleterre 

Approximately 10 hours to Boulogne Sur Mer yesterday and an overnight stop there and now next morning we’re sitting on the train ready to depart for England. Looking forward to seeing Rose (pussy cat), Tamarind (our UK home) and friends. Leaving behind sunny, blue skies and grape vines. Interesting new places and people. New friends. Le Petit Coquelicot (our French home) and fig trees, full of ripening figs. 

Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles

I’m carrying on the theme of the French idiom, so here is the second one. I’m not sure that we feel our asses are surrounded by noodles BUT we do consider ourselves very lucky to have ourlittlehouseinfrance.

Dimanche 30 Juillet – up early and off to a vide grenier in Pujols.
On Monday morning the paving slabs for the terrace were delivered, the lorry only just managing to squeeze through the hedging.Also purchased a small chest of drawers via LeBoncoin from Eymet. A bit insignificant and so I ended up painting it cream.


On Tuesday morning our neighbour Margaret popped around with her daughter and children. She has been a resident in the village for a long time and knows many of the other residents well. Sylvian the plumber came to give us a devis for putting in an outside tap and changing the lavabo in the bathroom. He was very efficient and came to complete these small works the next day, Wednesday. Wednesday evening we drove to Saint-Loubes near Bordeaux to purchase a pine commode via LeBoncoin, bringing it back precariously strapped to the top of the car.Thursday 3 Août – Callum’s 16th birthday. Can’t believe I have a 16 year old son. Where did those 16 years go, in the blink of an eye!!!!!  There would be a picture of him here as he’s very handsome, but he won’t let me post any pictures of him😟 so here’s a piccie of Bella between his legs. Candy fridge freezer delivered in the morning and then we went to Callum’s favourite city of Bordeaux. Had a good mooch around and Cal chose his pressie. Then on the following day we went back to Bordeaux again to the cinema to see “Spider-Man Homecoming”. Very entertaining but had to dash there from the car park as usual due to our late arrival.

Samedi – evening went to the Bastid’Art festival in Miramont de Guyenne with Michele and family. Super entertaining with a reggae band, acrobats and then a swing band.Dimanche – sad face as the boy’s return to the UK. Not before Paul and I had a snoop around the vide grenier at Sauvetat du Dropt. The boys flight was due to leave at around 3.30 but it was delayed and they didn’t get home until late.

Most of the week on my own was spent cleaning and oiling the staircase and painting the small chest of drawers purchased from LeBoncoin. I did meet up with Barbara a couple of times and had an evening with Lune and her family. Also, on the Friday I had a nice trip out with Margaret to IKEA. It was a bit of an epic trip as I hadn’t realised how long it would take to get there and walk around. In the end it meant leaving Bella for 6 hours. Luckily she coped with that. The evening I spent preparing for the girls arrival the following morning.

Saturday morning, the girls landed about 10am. It was great to see them and they both looked excited to be here. We didn’t get up to much and as they were acclimatising we just went for a walk along the Dordogne river in Ste Foy La Grande.
Dimanche 13 Août – the girls were happy to get up and go to a vide grenier in Pellegrue not far away.  It was hot, hot but we managed to mooch around and pick up a few bits. In the evening we stood, and stood for over an hour to see “Mapping” at the Château de Duras, together with a fireworks display. It was well worth the wait in the end, although my feet were aching after all the standing about.
On Monday we went in the morning to Duras market, where I also caught up briefly with Barbara and Sharon and purchased a small common perennial plant in this part of France called “Gaura Lindheimeri”. In the afternoon we headed to Meilhan-sur-Garonne where we had a lovely walk along the Canal du Midi and down by the river Garonne. In the evening we had a pizza in the village restaurant. I wouldn’t go back.  Monday night there was a tremendous thunder storm. Lightening lit up the sky and the bedroom. Wasn’t sure I’d get to sleep, but I did. On the Tuesday morning the girls and I decide to go to the Monflanquin medieval festival. We took Bella and enjoyed browsing the stalls and watching some of the festival acts.  Although Bella didn’t like the drums. Mercredi 16 – visited Les Jardins de Beauchamp which is in Marmande. Catch my next post to see how beautiful these gardens were. After the gardens we went to see an armoire I’d found on the dreaded LeBoncoin (think I’m addicted). Needless to say it wasn’t as nice in the flesh. In the evening we went to the Monsègur night market. Then back for jollies around the kitchen table.

Jeudi – I am up very early writing up this blog. The plan is to visit Eymet market this morning and then go to Duras night market this evening. It’s hot today and we all enjoyed our mooch around Eymet market. The girls are enjoying the sunshine and I’m about to post this blog before joining them.

Open garden, South West France😍

   image

First lunch at B’s.

image

Then to Loubens where one of B’s friends lives. She has a lovely Girondaise farm house that is on the market at moment.  House near Loubens

FullSizeRender

Super place to check out which plants will grow in this part of France and for garden design ideas. We will return to check it out at the start of the season. At the moment it is so dry and parched. Still looking good

image

I always think it’s lovely to stumble across a hidden oasis and treasures within a garden. Hydrangeas to die for and lots of hidden object d’art to stimulate the senses.image

IMG_2695

IMG_2693

IMG_2692

IMG_2684

IMG_2696

IMG_2715

To get all the details about open gardens in France go to:

http://rendezvousauxjardins.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/

image

 

Woo hoo, C’est l’été and it’s vide time again

 

So there was another storm the night before last!

vlcsnap-2016-07-31-20h52m10s391 (2)

Then yesterday morning it was not as hot as it had been but we have our friends, Karen and Keith staying and there are vide greniers to go to and a possible wine tasting at St Émilion so it was up early and out for the morning croissants and then into the car, leaving my teenage son in bed.

First stop was Saint Avit Saint Nazaire and just as Karen said “I wonder if we’ll see any demijohns”, we did, and it was only 3€.  What a bargain.  I’ve never seen any that cheap before.  No way she’ll get it back on the plane so it will have to stay in France until we can get it back in the car.  Karen has a spot in her Gloucester cottage for this one.  Looking forward to seeing it in situ.

Then it was onto Pujols.  A gorgeous little French town, that is not far from us, although we’ve never been before.

 

I found all this lovely Bakelite.

BakeliteFinds

We’ll definitely go back to Pujols, it was a lovely French town.  Had a quick rendezvous with Barbara, a friend of ours and then it was on to St Emilion to have lunch and check out the wine tasting venues.

And finally this evening there was just time for a game of Pétanque.  The guests won.

 

IMG_2217

 

A walk through Mas d’Agenais and along the Canal du Midi yesterday

It’s not easy to know what to do when you want to get out and about, walk the dog and avoid getting muddy.  Head for the beautiful town of Mas d’Agenais and walk the Canal du Midi.  So that’s what we got up to on Saturday.  We had been last year on our bikes and we plan, at some stage, to cycle to Agen, but for now just a leisurely walk was in order.

Mas d’Agenais is one of the most historic villages in the Lot et Garonne and overlooks the Canal du Midi.  The village is over 2000 years old and was once occupied by the Romans. Eglise Saint-Vincent overlooking the old market place houses a painting by Rembrandt of Christ on the Cross, painted in 1631.

Around the time of the first century, the village was know by the name of Ussubium and was located to the west of the current main square.  Later on it went by the name of Pompejacum, which remained its name until the eleventh century, when the name “Mas” was adopted.

The church was started in 1085 and took 40 years to complete. It was a collegiate church for a secular community which meant that it provided distinct spaces within it for congregational worship and also administered the village directly and held the “three hands of justice” (high and low justice, and the right to levy taxes).  These three hands were used in the design of the town’s coat of arms more recently.

545px-Blason_ville_fr_Le_Mas-d'Agenais_(Lot-et-Garonne).svg

It is a Roman style church and was built with a traditional Benedictine apse, a transept and three naves.
download

It was restored in the nineteenth century by architects Paul Abadie Jr and Viollet le Duc. Originally, the church had a tall slate spire similar to other French churches in the region.  However, when it became too dangerous to repair in the nineteenth century, it was destroyed. Now, to some extent it does have the appearance as if something is missing when you look at it.  In 1875 an extract of a report by Paul Abadie valued the necessary restoration work at 39,600 francs. In 2010 the town of Mas d’Agenais was given a grant of € 20,694 relating to the restoration of the nave.    

IMG_4751

In the Middle Ages, the village was surrounded by a brick wall with five high gates.  Only one still remains.IMG_4758

There was originally a feudal château next to this gate which was destroyed in the seventeenth century and its beams reused to build the covered wheat market.  This is now where the village’s weekly market is held on Thursday mornings.

IMG_4750

Just the other side of this gate was a huge axe, probably made from one of the old beams I imagine.  Anyway it made for a good photo.

IMG_4761

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the ferryman was the only way of travelling between the banks of the Garonne. A toll suspension bridge was built in 1840 and later adapted to allow twentieth century traffic across it.  It is very tight though and gives you height and width limits. We just managed to breath in and get across.

IMG_4748
We passed through the village last summer and it was a hive of activity, lots of people on the canal and cycling between Bordeaux and Agen. There are also lots of events such as the Foulées du Matin Vert, a running race from the town centre to the neighbouring town of Tonneins in June, concerts, vide greniers and an artists festival during August.

It’s quite therapeutic watching a lock fill.

 Paul took up botany on our walk.

IMG_4806

IMG_4772

Question – does my bum look big in this? Answer, yes.

Question – is my 14 year old son bigger than me? Answer, yes.

C’est fini.