Bird watching in the Aude

The region around our holiday cottage and B&B in the south of France is fabulous for birdwatchers. The Aude has a wide range of habitats, home to around 200 nesting species. From our terrace buzzards are a common sight, soaring high on the warm thermals. Watch the delightful “bobbing” habit of the black redstarts and at dusk, see the barn owl heading off on its nightly patrol. In summer watch the amazing spectacle of swifts racing round the square hurling themselves into the eaves, often colliding with the zinc guttering with a resounding clunk whilst the house martins look on bemused. Surrounded by such goings-on, it’s easy to feel close to nature.

 

Keeping chickens in the south of France

We have been preparing our potager behind our holiday home in the south of France to receive its first residents, les pondeuses, laying hens. From the market in Mirepoix, six Les Noires (Black Rock we think) prête à pondre, at point of lay, are now scratching around in the warm Languedoc sunshine. The hens are 18–20 weeks, and as promised, have already begun laying.  Apparently they had until Friday and then they were for the pot, Chef has already named them, Chasseur, Au Vin – you get the picture, he’s hilarious, Chef will be for the pot first.

Zero food miles for your fluffy breakfast omelette

Zero food miles for your fluffy breakfast omelette

I have already spent hours with them and my camera, getting to know them. They are timid, as am I, does their peck hurt? My son Sean said I would be scared of them! They have to be persuaded to leave their corner of the coop, perhaps unused to so much space. Already their characters are becoming apparent, one is bolder than the rest and is therefore easily distinguished, one has a darker coat that shimmers emerald green in the spring sunshine.

We are interested in eco tourism and the provenance of food and already source much of the produce locally that we serve at our bed and breakfast in Languedoc. It will be marvellous to collect the eggs each day, I am certain guests will share the delight and be assured that their fluffy lavender omelette has travelled zero food miles.

Sailing in the south of France

Sailing on Lake Montbel near Chalabre in the south of France

A marvellous way to spend a warm, spring Languedoc day, sailing on the emerald green waters of Lake Montbel, 5km from our holiday home in the south of France. Kayaks, catamarans and sailing boats for hire by the hour, half day or full day. Boat hire is very reasonable, a double kayak is 25 euros for half a day, 40 euros for a sailing boat. More details from the Leran sailing club (en français) though we can arrange hire for you.

Catastrophe at the B&B

The black redstarts unceremoniously evicted by Nasty Nick from the porch have been setting up residence on one of the huge beams that criss-cross the terrace at our bed and breakfast in the south of France. Guests had to move from the porch in order that the redstarts could enter with food for their young but even so… Their nest that was perching precariously on the beam is now lying on the ground. Poor little birds, all that effort, however, Nasty Nick has promised to redeem himself and first thing will fix a ledge to the beam so the width is extended. If we put the nest back then perhaps the redstarts, that have the sweetest “bobbing habit”, will return. They are more timid than the bold Great Tits that build their nests in the stone walls of the porch and simply swoop over your head while you are enjoying your coffee and croissants.

Quite rare in the UK, the black redstart thrives in the warmer climes of the south of France

Carcassonne, setting for new series for Channel 4

The beautiful, medieval city of Carcassonne is the setting for an adaptation of the best selling novel, The Labyrinthe by Kate Mosse. http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-03-27/labyrinth-discover-the-setting-of-channel-4s-new-fantasy-series

Stay at our holiday cottage or bed and breakfast in Languedoc and spend the day exploring the cobbled streets of the ancient city. They offer a poignant insight into what life must have been like, lived among the ramparts, besieged by the Crusaders. The stained glass windows in the Basilique Saint-Nazaire alone are worth the visit. Spring time in the south of France avoids the baking heat and crowds of the summer months. Grab your cheap flight into Carcassonne… http://chezmaisonbleue.co.uk/getting-here/

 

Carcassonne, close to our holiday home in the south of France

 

Festival de Carcassonne 19 June – 3 August

The programme is announced for one of the premier music festivals in the south of France this summer. An eclectic mix of opera, ballet and contemporary music, venues include the spectacular Roman theatre of La Cité. Over 120 shows, more than 80 are free. Highlights include Elton John 23 July, Patti Smith & Lou Reed 22 July, opera in the open air 6 July. The stunning medieval Cité de Carcassonne is about an hour from our holiday home in Languedoc. Click for the full programme (en francais).

Festival de Carcassonne summer 2013

Pyrenees for family friendly skiing

The closest ski resort to our holiday home in the south of France is Les Mont d’Olmes in the stunning Massif de Tabe region of the Pyrenees (40km). A small, perfectly formed resort with lots to offer, ideal for families. 21 km of slopes for all abilities, toboggan runs for smaller children while the Snow Park guarantees thrills for teens. A new chairlift has improved access to the mountains and 80 snow cannons complement what is currently, excellent fresh snow. It’s not the Alps of course but the Pyrenees offer very good value for families – a family ski pass at Les Mont d’Olmes is 360 euros for a week compared to 950 euros at Belle Plagne (source Igluski). The excellent Ski School Francais offers 2hr lessons for 4-7 yr olds (25 euros) older kids 28 euros. Steaming hot chocolate and homemade cakes by the log fire waiting for you on your return. Now, who can resist that? Interactive piste map

Family friendly skiing in the French Pyrenees

New routes into Beziers

Ryanair have announced additional [cheap] flights into Beziers for 2013 from Edinburgh and Glasgow Prestwick. Beziers is an easy 2hrs drive from our holiday home in Languedoc south of Carcassonne. See Ryanair

Last minute Christmas break

Try our Gourmet winter treats in our holiday cottage and bed and breakfast in the south of France this Christmas and New Year. Think bracing country walks followed by hot chocolate and home made cakes in front of the roaring log fire. A day’s skiing in the beautiful Pyrenean resorts of Ax les Thermes or Les Monts d’Olmes, it won’t break the bank, no queues either. Wine tastings and lavish dinners of local produce, and visits to Cathar chateaux – Montsegur and the stunning medieval citadel of Carcassonne are close. For more information visit Gourmet Winter Treats

Christmas & New Year in our holiday home in the south of France

Christmas magic in Carcassonne

A month of Christmas celebrations in medieval Carcassonne lasts until schools go back on 6 Jan. Christmas markets every Saturday, handmade crafts, fairgrounds, skating, sledging, and free concerts in the beautiful Basilique Saint-Nazaire among the ancient ramparts. About an hour from our cosy 18th century bed and breakfast and holiday cottage in the south of France – think homemade cakes and hot chocolate by the roaring log fire. Watch out for cheap flights into Carcassonne and Toulouse. The full Christmas programme is here (en francaise only).

A winter wonderland, Sonnac sur l’Hers in the hills south of Carcassonne