Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Spurred on ...

... by our glimpse of the Pyrenees at Laparade, we set off yesterday for Pau.

A new motorway (the A65) has just opened that goes from this side of Bordeaux down to the mountains and we'd been wanting to try it.  Although we travel some way west along the A62 before joining the A65 to turn south, it is a much faster route than crossing the Landes directly on country roads.

The last time we went to Pau heavy cloud cover meant that, although they are only 30 kilometers away, we had no sight of the Pyrenees and we set off somewhat doubtfully yesterday under leaden skies wondering if we'd have the same experience again.  But gradually as we travelled down, patches of blue broke through and we watched delightedly as the mountains slowly emerged. How could we not have seen these giants last time?

We arrived just after noon.  No time to waste.  A quick march with Vita along the Boulevard des Pyrénées past the Irish bar and the Australian bar to a proper French restaurant with a terrace that was rapidly filling up, where we could sit and bask in the sun, eat well and revel in the glorious backdrop.  Vita, squeezed in at our feet alongside the narrow alleyway between the tables, was smiled at by most of the waiters as they rushed past and fed crispy duck skin by the man at the table opposite us.

With Christmas only just over and children not yet back at school, Pau was "en fête" in the warm sun, with a plastic skating rink and a huge blow-up toboggan run and a wonderfully girly two-storey roundabout with (appropriately) a solitary small female passenger in pink.

My photography does not do the mountains justice and they fade away against the light blue sky.  Next time we'll stay longer - perhaps overnight - so I can catch their shapes lit up by the setting sun.

Monday, 27 December 2010

On a Clear Day

The phone rang - it was Paul to say they could see the Pyrenees from their house but it wouldn't last long.

We grabbed dog, camera and warm clothes and dashed in the car up to Laparade which sits on a high escarpment overlooking the Lot valley.

There is a relief map at Laparade of the surrounding countryside showing small villages, the winding of the river and in the distance the hills on the other side of the Lot Valley.  And, impossibly, beyond the range of hills we can see, the promise of a further view of the Pyrenees, about 190 kilometers away.

We take friends up there in summer and through the haze wave our arms vaguely and tell them that the Pyrenees are "over there" (somewhere).  But we've never seen them.  Until today.

There they were, no more than a hint of grey against the grey-blue sky - a bank of angular clouds up and beyond the far hills we recognise. A vast range stretching across the horizon. 

We could see them, just, with the naked eye.  My camera struggled - nothing on wide angle, but on zoom there is a hint.

We can now point when we take friends up there and say this is where we saw the Pyrenees at Christmas.

Boxing Day Walk

A chilly bright day enticed us out for an afternoon walk along the canal. This time we went further afield and for longer - a nearly-two-hour hike from Damazan to Buzet and back.

Vita found a very fierce bollard that needed attacking, from behind the safety of Tod's legs.

The barge had a small car parked alongside and smoke coming from the chimney - some brave souls on the canal for Christmas.

And the tiny pleasure boats with their covering of leaves were a reminder of good things to come in the summer.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Earthy beetroots and carrots gently cooling on the stove for tonight's borscht. 
Monkfish, mushrooms and crème fraîche in the fridge ready for cooking.
Tod's home-made poppy seed cake and stollen on the side (already started, too good to wait).
Overnight snow slowly thawing on the fields.
Vita sitting guard by the front door in case the importunate blackbirds get too close.
The cottage snug and warm.

Tomorrow we spend the day with friends. This evening is just ours.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


We've moved back into winter quarters - down in the cottage - and my feet are warm for the first time in what feels like weeks.

We struggled to keep the house heated as November became increasingly cold and wet. We created small pools of warmth - the kitchen, my study, the lounge (and even that became hard after I'd broken the Godin glass) - and scuttled between them across chill passages.  We shut doors to keep the heat in and Vita (who easily opens latch doors) did not understand and wandered round opening them again pulling in icy draughts as she hunted us down to where we were huddling. 

With the prospect of even colder weather, yesterday evening after our French lesson we fled to the cottage with duvets, chicken and the spice rack for curry supper, milk and cereals for breakfast, our computers and the Sky box. 

Today, in biting wind we've trotted backwards and forwards carrying down winter clothes, books to read, cameras, extra shelving, the store cupboard and veg.  Every time we come in through the cottage front door the warmth has enveloped us.  Vita follows us contently from room to room - no shut doors to paw at.

We can look at the forecast with equanimity. We are promised snow.