|Clos De Candélè||
Just to wish all our family, friends, guests past and future, and of course our animals, very best wishes for a Happy New Year, and a healthy and peaceful 2013!
The Pic du Midi! On a beautiful clear day we drove to La Mongie, where there is a full-blown up-and-running ski resort only 1 hour and 20 minutes away! And there in the middle of town is the cable-car up to the Observatory at the top of the Pic - it was an opportunity too good to miss. The trip is made in two stages, the first one quite short and tame even for the vertiginous like myself, then you switch to another car and that's when it gets a bit scary... but taking slow deep breaths and keeping my eyes on the top I made it! and it was really worth it, I can't do justice to the stunning views and the sheer beauty of the place. There is a small bar and restaurant where we had lunch, the obligatory 'gift shop', and an exhibition about the Observatory packed with info and amazingly showing how all the equipment was carried up to the top of the mountain by men and donkeys at the beginning of the last century. It was a wonderful day out and I'm so glad I finally made it to the top, now I look at it from here in a completely different light!
On Wednesday we made our pre-Christmas trip to the Domaine de La Prune winery at Sarragachies (which has just been made a National Monument, as it has the only vines in France that survived the phylloxera outbreak) to stock up for the festivities, and on the way back we stopped for lunch at le Café Zic on the lake at Marciac. I don't know why we never went before, but we will certainly be going back, we had a fantastic lunch, really imaginative food served with pleasure and charm: the best foie de volaille I've ever tasted, followed by roulade de pintade on a bed of baby mushrooms with a parsnip purée. We were served an appetiser of pumpkin soup, and home-made cheese straws with an aperitif. The dining-room is light and airy and obviously decorated with jazz in mind round a black grand piano, and in warmer weather sitting outside on the terrace by the edge of the lake must be really special. If all that wasn't good enough, the meal for three of us came to €49!! A winner all round!
Yes, the last leaves have fallen from the walnut trees, we have had frosty mornings and the temperature at night has even been down to -2C a couple of times already! But there is still plenty to enjoy, from the views over the woods with the mist clinging in the mornings, the splendid colours of the leaves that have yet to fall, lighting the log-burners and curling up with a book, getting together with friends for a glass - or two - of mulled wine... There are lovely Christmas fairs to go to at the weekends, and plans to make for Christmas itself... A time to relax and enjoy!
... and talking of the six varieties of tomatoes grown here this year, here are some examples! They are coming thick and fast now, it's going to be a long winter of spag bol...
The heatwave has arrived... it's been up in the 30s for several days and tomorrow is forecast for 36C...! fingers crossed for a thunderstorm! The vegetables seem to be enjoying it, we put some out on the table in the barn every day for guests to help themselves... the inevitable courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes (6 varieties this year, I was feeling ambitious!), onions, potatoes, peppers, chillies, strawberries... a monster squash, and more to come, and I even have two cape gooseberry plants - very exotic if not over productive!
Here are some great photographs of the Tour de France taken by our guest here last week, cycling enthusiast and cyclist himself, Andy Lane! He has even captured Bradley Wiggins on his way to winning the trophy in Paris...
The first 6 months of this year have simply flown by... a new member of the family arrived in January, Dylan the fox terrier puppy at four months old. We've completely fallen in love with him, he is playmate for and best friends with Gypsy and we can't imagine life here without him!
February was the coldest on record, -13C at one point, and spring was very late in coming. The vegetable plot is still behind, but we are starting to get some crops.
Trips abroad were made in May to visit family, Sevilla and Montenegro, most enjoyable, and our first guests this year at La Petite Grange arrived at the end of May.
We splashed out and bought a gas-fired grill - a 'plancha' - to use out in the barn, and we are looking forward to long summer evenings with good food, wine and friends!
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
8.30am Christmas morning... a frosty start to a truly beautiful crisp clear sunny day.
I took this photo last week, about 1km from the house, whilst out walking the dog - it was such a beautiful morning! I think that's the Pic du Midi to the left... I haven't had time to post it before, as we had guests staying, and I've been trying to get to grips with the New Sewing Machine! Also, at the weekend we went to a Foire des Antiquités at Soumoulous, which is just this side of Pau. It was quite a large 2-day event, lots and lots of stuff ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, I bought two old hatstands (sort of carved wooden sticks with a mushroom on top) for 30 euros, and Nick bought an old country house post box - the sort you leave in the hall, and the staff come and empty it once a day and post your letters! - for 10 euros, so we came home happy. Also Gypsy the Dog was much admired, she was very well-behaved and six or seven local old Bearnaise chaps came to offer their opinions on her breed: their guess is as good as mine, as she was adopted at 4 months from the wonderful Phoenix Rescue in the Dordogne, and nobody really knows what she is... other than beautiful!
I was looking back over the summer photos, and this is one I'm quite proud of: my one kilo tomato! I can't remember whether it is Coeur de Boeuf, or Supersteak, because I lost the labels when planting them, but I feel it is a worthy achievement!