Les poissons en France

Sunday, August 12, 2018

No Need To Worry

Yesterday evening I was going to write a post entitled "Casualty of the Heatwave" but then the "casualty" showed signs of life. Perhaps I better explain.

In the Spring our resident barn owl found himself a mate. There was little activity for several weeks but eventually we thought we heard a faint "shooshing" noise which we knew was the cry of hungry owlets. As time went on we deduced that there was probably only one baby in the nest as the noise did not increase. All seemed to be progressing in accordance with the information posted on line regarding barn owl breeding habits. We regularly saw the male go off in search of food and we think we saw the female once. However this week we heard no "shooshing" from baby. We both feared that it had succumbed to the incessant high temperatures. We know how hot it is in our loft so goodness knows how hot it is in the top of the pigeonier  with no insulation.

However we were delighted late yesterday evening to hear the owlet demanding food and we saw "Dad" responding by setting off  to hunt.

Fingers crossed that the owlet will fledge and that we can get some photos....we have a better camera now than the last time they bred.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

After the Caterpillar

A storm overnight and a cooler day, giving the opportunity to work in the garden!  And so the 'hedge' clearance continues.
The Irises are now all up.

Monday, August 06, 2018

La Soiree Blanche

Every year John and Lesley like to take us to a local event as a thank you to John for cutting their grass in their absence. This year we were attracted by the following poster.

Having bought the tickets unfortunately John Hampshire was ill and couldn't join us, although Lesley was able to come. John H. certainly missed an experience!!

We had been requested to wear white but as Lesley and I don't possess any white clothes we made a token effort and hoped we wouldn't be turned away at the door. On arrival music was playing and we joined the white clad guests on the terrace for "bubbles".
  As we walked through the "mini baronial hall" to the terrace the tables were laid as if for a dinner party, complete with candelabras. When we booked we weren't sure what we had booked for but we had certainly not envisaged this.
 There were about 20 other guests who all seemed to know each other and there was lots of nudging to say "who the hell are they?". We were then called to table and they seemed amazed to find that this  "strange lot" could speak french. Actually our fellow diners turned out to be very nice people, although we just could not get over the lady who sat next to me. She was the spitting image of Dame Edna Everidge and I really mean it!!

We had been particularly attracted by the menu......oh what a disappointment. The Thai salad was a mess in a tumbler. The creole duck tasted like a poor winter chicken stew with a piece of pineapple added and the mango tiramasu I thought was pieces of peach with cream on top. We all gave it "nil point" for presentation. The caterer was supposed to have a good reputation!!

Between courses the duo played and were very good, if rather inappropriate. However the piece de resistance was when they transformed into a 1980s disco/karaoke. We began to feel like great aunts at a wedding. Time to go.

Have you seen those TV programmes where shabby chic chateau owners have to make a few bob to keep the family pile going? Well that summarises our evening although none of us could say that we hadn't enjoyed the experience.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Like all of Europe, we have an extreme weather 'incident' here ... no real rain since beginning of June and temperatures in the 30's, except this week it has been hitting 40 deg C.  The Head Gardener has been struggling to try to keep things alive, but even watering isn't the same as rain.
Even the Christo bed, with its Dahlias, Cannas, Pelargoniums, etc, is suffering and that gets watered every day.
To add to our misery, the Box Caterpillar is rampant here in the Lot.  Throughout the valleys the hillsides are lined with dead wild box.  We have lost our Box balls and the Box hedge which is actually in front of our neighbour's house and Nadine (who is older than we are!) says that it has always been there.
It is a shame but, 'hey-ho', it has given us a new opportunity to try something different.  We have plans for its replacement but first we have to cut it all down.  I've made a start already by beginning to lift the Irises in front of the hedge, but the whole project is definitely one for the Winter.
So now we wait for 'normal' weather to return (only another 4 days of 40!)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The best form of Gardening

We go to a monthly garden club which organises talks and visits, but the July meeting was a bit different.  One of the members, Cameron, is the maître du chai (chief winemaker) at a small vineyard in the Lot near Puy L'Eveque, and he invited the club members to visit the small château where he works to tour the gardens and the cellars.
Cameron showed us the vines and talked about how they grew and how grapes form.  Fortunately we were in the shade as it was about 38 deg C. We were amazed to discover the restrictions under which he has to grow the vines and subsequently make the wine in order to conform to the AOC rules. We then went into the coolness of the cave where Cameron explained the vinification process, followed by a degustation.
Of course we bought some wine (only as a way of saying thank-you for the visit you understand!)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Frog Heaven

Today was our last day with Guy here and, this afternoon, in temperatures in the 30's, we went to a nearby Water Garden, Le Jardin d'Eau, and it was a great time to go, the water-lilies and lotus were in full bloom.
I have to admit that I wasn't too keen to go to this garden as we don't have any water in ours!  However we all enjoyed it, and, thanks to Guy, we've done lots of things with him that we wouldn't have done by ourselves.  He's off to Morocco tomorrow.

PS did you see the little frogs?  There are 3.

...and the foothills.

Having returned from the mountains and had a day's recovery, yesterday (Sunday) we thought we'd go for a little walk.  We went to a nearby pretty village with a waterfall which we had last been to about 10 years ago.
(There is a village in all of the trees!)

Since our last visit, the area around the waterfall has been vastly improved as a visitor facility; better pathways, an organised route, clear signing, etc.  So off we set and found that we were climbing up the side of the waterfall and arriving eventually above it.
We pressed on as the walk seemed to be circular taking in the 'Chateau des Anglais', a look-out for the English in the 100 years war.  The path became 'interesting' ...
... but we eventually arrived at the Chateau des Anglais.
It was at this point that things went wrong!  As we thought that the walk was a circular tour we turned left out of the Chateau instead of returning to the waterfall, and we found ourselves walking across the hillside on an ever diminishing track which eventually petered out.  At this point discretion meant that we retraced our steps back to the Chateau, although not without incident ... as at one point Sue, in 'leaping' up a rocky step banged her head against the projecting rock face and fell back into my arms.
Back on the right path, we eventually returned to civilisation and our pic-nic after our walk which had taken us about 3 and a half hours!!!!

Enough mountains for the moment.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Into the Mountains

Guy wanted to see a different part of France and suggested we went down to the Pyrénées which are about 4 hours drive.  Guy organised a house on Airbnb and off we went last Wednesday to the Haute- Pyrénées near Lourdes (although not for a miracle!)  It was our first visit to this region.

We wanted to see as much as possible and Guy had an itinerary of  'the sights to see' and so, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday morning was spent exploring the most important spots.
The first major stop was to go up to the Pic de Midi via the infamous (to followers of the Tour de France) Col de Tourmalet.
  (Half way up, looking back)
There were a number of cyclists testing themselves against the climbs the pros will do next week.
Looking back to the Ski station on the Pic.  We were intending to take the cable car to the top of the mountain but it was 40 euros each, so we decided that the view from any of the peaks around here would be similar.
So on to the World Heritage site of Cirque de Gavarnie, one of 3 craters with stunning waterfalls.
Our final stop for the day was to Pont d'Espagne.  This was an impressive water cascade issuing from a lake high up in the mountains, Lac de Gaube.
From the bridge we had to take the ski lift to get to the top for walk to the lake.  However, Sue wasn't too keen on the idea of the lift, but there was no other way.  A further problem was that by now it was half past five and the return lift shut at quarter past six.  But, hey ho, off we went.
(was this a smile or a grimace?)
Once at the top we walked about half an hour to the lake but it was amazing ... wild flowers, stunted and snow-damaged pines and fantastic views. 
When we reached the lake it was a turquoise blue from the melting snow.
A lovely spot and we definitely wish to go again, but now we had the final test ... walking back down to the bottom, and we had to walk down via a twisting wide 'path' which is one of the ski runs in the winter.
We made it in one piece, went to the nearest town, found a restaurant for confit de canard and chips and got back to the house at 10!!!!

Friday we were to see a couple more 'sites' but we woke up to cloud down to the ground and so we had an interesting drive along narrow roads through the mountains in mist.  At lunchtime we escaped the clouds and arrived at a small town with a large leisure lake where a number of para-gliders were floating over the water.
What was interesting for us was to see camper vans already pitched up on the sides of the road, particularly near hairpin bends, to be in the best spot when the Tour de France passes in a week's time.
We had lunch down in the valley and the owner was talking to us and said that one van had set up their spot on the Col de Tourmalet (perhaps the hardest hill climb) on the 7th July, 3 weeks before the riders will pass.  And really, all of the riders will go by in about one hour at the most!!!

And then, home, after 1000 km in 3 days.  It's tiring, this enjoying yourselves!!!