Archive for month: January, 2012

Right up close to nature

Bird watching in the Aude is a popular activity. A family of black redstarts has nested in the porch of our B&B in the south of France since we came here. These birds are quite rare in the UK but are a common sight in Languedoc. Broods are large for such small birds, last year we had five very demanding chicks. The parents worked so hard, frantic in their forays for food and quick to let us know if they wanted to come into the porch and would rather we weren’t there. Occasionally they would be very bold and fly over our heads, careful not to drop the giant moth protruding from their beak. Usually we had to find alternative seats on the terrace or the square so they could raise their brood in peace – likewise we could enjoy our breakfast. The chicks got so huge we thought they were going to topple from the ledge. Eventually, one morning before we set off for Mirepoix market, one or two, after much coaxing from mum and dad, finally found enough courage to fly from the nest to the nearest beam. Oh, they were so sweet, such scardy cats, hopping about on the beams for most of the morning before venturing onto the terrace, already practicing the lovely bobbing habit of the adult birds.

A walk before lunch

Drove this morning to Ste-Colmbe sur l’Hers, an ancient bastide town so typical of the Languedoc that stand in testament to past conflicts. We often cycle here so it’s not far from the house. An easy walk along the valley floor to la Bastide sur l’Hers, the barrage thunderous due to the swollen river Hers. A short stop at le Peyrat to admire the church of many bells (I made up the name). A steep climb from la Bastide along the GR7b brings you to Mireval; you have lovely views of Lac Montbel by now, though beware the eye squintingly strawberry pink villa that will never, ever mellow. Like a summer’s day on the ridge, fluorescent lime green and lemon butterflies dancing on the breeze as though it were July. Picked bay leaves from the path which are making their way into the lamb stew this evening.  You could extend this walk in any direction, previously we have dropped down to the shores of the lake. Today we came down from the ridge via en Sarrat, a short but very satisfying ramble which would have you back to your holiday cottage and on your terrace in time for lunch.

50 routes detailed in the Midi Pyrenees, some from the front door and none too far away from our biker friendly accommodation in the south of France.

Bike Club France

English speaking website and forum, a useful resource for bikers living in or visiting France. Our biker friendly B&B has great facilities; huge garage, workshop, washing and drying rooms, and on the doorstep of some great rides along sweeping (quiet) mountain roads.

You can’t have too many milk jugs

Do you think there are enough for my bed & breakfast in the south of France (3 bedrooms). Nick muttered something about bonkers…

Caterpillar train

Do caterpillars get lonely? Can you see them, the train was about 2m long, in the hills surrounding Sonnac Sur L’Hers yesterday. Maybe intuitively they know they will come to less harm if they stick together. Perhaps we should be more like caterpillars.

My lovely Maçon

Recent heavy rains exposed more weaknesses in the vast roof of our B&B and holiday cottage in the south of France. Over the years it has sprouted leaks as fast as He Who Won’t Be Rushed has succeeded in sealing others. I always suspected Nick cracked as many tiles as he repaired as he shuffled across the roof … We succeeded in tempting our maçon to the house in September to prepare a devis for a complete overhaul of the roof. He then promptly retreated to the far realms of the Languedoc, I think to recover from the restoration of our holiday cottage, but finally reappeared a few days before Christmas with a very reasonable quote. We have become very fond of our maçon. We worked with him for a year during the restoration of our gite in the south of France and he is undoubtedly an artisan exceptionnel. All the advice is to get 3 quotes for any work but in my experience, this would take about 4 years, so I will stick with my maçon.

Motorbiking route in the Pyrenees

This route passes close to our biker friendly b&b in the south of France Pyrenees round route

Biker friendly accommodation

Sweeping mountain roads, Mediterranean coastline, vineyards, ancient villages and lively towns, all make motorbiking in the south of France rather enjoyable. Our biker friendly accommodation – huge garage, workshop, washing / drying facilities – provides easy passage to Andorra (110km) and the Spanish border, Barcelona 275km. Check out best biking roads in France

Furniture restoration

Our latest brocante find, a school locker that is being transformed into a petit wardrobe for our holiday cottage in the south of France. Seems a shame to wash away the schoolgirl (boy?) graffiti, will leave the love heart at least.

Jean loves Marc

We tread lightly at every opportunity at Chez Maison Bleue in terms of environmental impact. More natural products such as oils and bees wax are used to restore old, wood furniture. The piece here was sanded with coarse then fine sandpaper then wire wool, cleaned with a solution of water and vinegar (Grandma’s way and so economical – vinegar costs 19 cents, white spirit 3 euros). A wax based polish was then applied to achieve, I hope you agree, a very pleasing result.