Back in the Lot valley for a couple of weeks to ease me into Autumn. When we arrived the air temperature was up in the high 20s and more importantly was the pool temperature. As the days slowly passed the temperatures dropped but I was still swimming on the last day. This was the usual combination holiday of work and pleasure, heavily biased to the latter. My oldest grandson joined us for a week and it was great to reacquaint him with the pleasures of rural France, think food and wine. It was a bus-man’s holiday for him being on lifeguard duty by the pool! Despite the usual post flight colds we managed a few local walks and cycles incorporating fruit picking, he was on guard as I picked. Bad example to the innocent younger generation. Light relief came from boules, table tennis, crosswords and whist – boring old farts.
Anyhow to get back to the subject of this post there was a lot of work going on at nearby Hauterive Chateau with the plums they grow alongside the vines A machine washed and cleaned the ripe plums, trays of plums are then loaded into ovens to dehydrate them into our breakfast prunes. As well as our boxes of wine we came away with handfuls of plums which provided desserts for many nights. Grape picking occurs later at the end of September.
The fields in the vicinity of the house had been harvested earlier and now they were being ploughed and harrowed. The size of modern machinery is staggering, the tractor turns up with a trailer which then proceeds to unfurl its long wings making quick work of the large fields. The last run must have been seeding as within a few days green shoots of Barley appeared.
One morning I woke to find a man on the roof cleaning the chimney in the traditional way. Apparently one needs an annual certificate of this work being carried out for insurance purposes.
We had our own work repairing the sit on mower but thankfully the helper is an experienced engineer. It did work later.On my daily circuit of the wooded hill and combe I spotted some trees that had their bases tarred and sticks placed against them, not as traps but possibly as markers for any boar or deer movements. The woods are hunted regularly. No one was able to give a satisfactory explanation.
Every night a deer came down the garden to feed on fallen apples so in an attempt to get a closer view I rigged up my hammock and laid in wait but of course I drifted off to sleep, too much wine, so probably missed all the action. There was a full moon which lit up the garden in the early hours.
A pleasant couple of weeks.
It’s 37º in the shade, time for another dip in the pool.
That’s how two weeks passed at my friends house in The Lot valley this June.
It was too hot for any serious walking but I managed a short walk in the shelter of the woods most mornings. That’s probably where I picked up my third tick of the year, I always have my ‘tick remover’ in hand as the little blighters seem to like me. This is a previous picture as the latest tick had reached and embedded itself in a far too private area to photograph.There are many deer in the surroundings so one expects the ticks to thrive. Talking of deer I experienced a wonderful sighting of a young calf lying in the long grass in the garden, it remained motionless for minutes before being startled and rushing off. I believe the doe often leaves her calf like this in the daytime. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me!
I did have my phone trying to catch a photo of the Swallow Tails that landed by the pool for water but wasn’t very successful.Buzzards and kites seemed scarce this year but a pair of great tits nesting in the bowl of a tree on the terrace were busy feeding all day, unfortunately we left before the young emerged.
The various orchids in the garden were all past their best but the roses were putting on a good show.
All in all a lazy time.
Following on from a comment I’ve added a couple of pictures to demonstrate my tick remover…
Following on from my last post I’m in France not Austria, no I didn’t board the wrong plane, this is one of the weeks I spend at my friends’ house in The Lot valley. I’m wandering about in those new boots to ensure they are comfortable and intent on some secret training. It really is too hot most days to walk far but I’m up and away for a few miles every morning. I enjoyed the local ‘communication tower’ walk more than usual as the tracks had a more rustic feel to them now that the quad bikes have been banned. The herds of deer and ibex were still present in their artificial enclosure and there were lots of illicit plums and hazelnuts to pick.
Walked the long way via Tousac and the old railway to the Marie Restaurant in Duravel for their 6 course lunch, 13 euros. needed a lift back. Another morning a long sweaty march through the vineyards to Puy L’Eveque and then up through the chestnut trees to a friend’s house in Martignac. He donated an abundance of tomatoes and courgettes from his small potager which featured in our menus for the week. Traditional markets were visited, several restaurants’ multi course lunches endured and much time was spent in the pool. We prepared lots of salads in the hot weather to try and eat healthier.
Up the road in Loupiac by coincidence my neighbours from home were spending a week and we visited their luxurious accommodation. Reciprocating they spent a lazy afternoon by our pool. The area is famous for its tannin rich dark red Malbec wines and they had been donated three bottles of the best Domaine des Sangliers ‘Santon Black’, but as they don’t like red wine they generously passed on to us, lovely – all part of the training.
The nearby family Filhol Chateau Hauterive provides us with lovely fresh rose and rich red wines. They were also in the middle of plum harvesting and drying to produce the best tasty prunes. The vines were all well pruned and ready for picking in a few weeks time – they just need a little rain before then.
Ten days of blue skies and thirty degrees sun – all things come to an end and Austria beckons.
Oh and bye the way always….
A quick update from France.
The weather patterns have certainly become confused this year. We arrived in The Lot at the tail end of the bad weather which saw flooding in Paris and for the first few days it was cold, wet and miserable. Despite that short walks were achieved every day, lots of weeding in the garden and I even braved a swim most days. The orchids were past their best but sweet peas brightened up the byways. Different, to us, restaurants were visited and old friendships renewed. Lots of dark Cahors wine was imbibed. Talk was of the referendum; even the British living out here are divided. Due to duplicate shopping trips, we amassed at one stage three dozen croissants – breakfasts became a major event.
The weather changed to hot and sunny, butterflies appeared in their hundreds, kites and buzzards wheeled over the garden, out came the barbecue, the sun loungers appeared and the pool became the most desirable place to be.
The change in our weather fortunes reminds me of that old comedy song by Al Sherman ‘A letter from camp’ – they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.
From now on the shade of the woods was needed to make walking in the heat possible.
Soon be home – that’s your Lot.
“If you have nothing to say, say nothing” Mark Twain.
No point in telling you of my activities here in The Lot Valley – I’ve said it all before.
Two highlights though –
The most fantastic electric storm one night when the whole of the area was lit for hours by sheet lightening with terrible thunder. 10cms of rain fell.
The next moonless night I slept out in the garden under the most perfect starlit sky and watched the Perseid meteors shooting in. Magic.
The French love their food and this area is particularly well endowed with local food markets and restaurants. Duck is often omnipresent on the menus. But starting at breakfast you can enjoy Agen prunes sliced into yoghurt or muesli. That’s after you have visited the local Boulangerie for fresh bread and croissants to savour with your coffee. Lunches eaten outside this hot June have mainly been delicious salads, have to keep the calories down somehow. However the local restaurants all seem to do a fixed price lunchtime menu so we availed ourselves of this on two occasions.
Lets start with the wonderful Cafe/Restaurant de la Mairie in Duravel. I always try to eat here, preferably on a Friday for the fish. This is a no fuss lunch enjoyed by workers, locals and tourists. The mother and daughter team are welcoming and the meal is set, just listen carefully for the choices. First we can pick from the extensive salad buffet [soup’s off in summer] but don’t overdo it as there is lots to come. This time we had tasty merlu with gratin potatoes as the main course. The cheese board arrives next along with more fresh bread. The tarts for desert were all seasonal and delicious. Relax with a strong coffee after all that free wine. Can’t be beaten for 13euro.
Another day we went more upmarket and dined at La Terrasse Restaurant in Grezels [booking essential] A more formal dining area with no workers present, mainly English visitors and favoured French locals – they have there own personal napkins! One man serves the whole room with style and nonchalance, and more style. He knows his customers and has full confidence in what is being served. Meanwhile his wife slaves away in the kitchen. Again a fixed menu with ample wine included. Today we started with a wonderful noodle soup tureen with the freshest of bread. The maitre d’ encourages you to pour wine into your empty soup bowl and slurp it up – Faire Chabrot. [not recommended in your average English restaurant] Next was a goats cheese mille feuille on a tomato salad – superb. The main event was a pork casserole with roast potatoes accompanied by a simple green salad. The cheese board highlighted some of the local goats cheese and a well matured blue. Pudding was an egg meringuey thing. 18euros this time. What wonderful food perfectly presented to you in a classy dining area.
Going more upmarket again, we ate out one evening at Le Vert, a country house set in lovely surroundings near Mauroux. The weather was perfect for eating out on the terrace. This place also has ‘chambre d’hotes’ and was therefore quite busy. Aperitifs of the local Fenelon [Cahors red wine, nut liqueur and cassis] are served tonight with melon balls. A salmon and salad starter was favourite. The main course was a choice between duck and merlu, the latter was mine. Served with asparagus, mushroom and tomato it was perfect. The black fruits with meringue completed the banquet which had been enjoyed with a fresh white wine from a local estate. We splashed out at 32 euro a head. [drinks extra!]
Apologies to all those other lovely local restaurants we didn’t visit this holiday, will make amends next time. Who needs trip adviser?
This is a perfect cycling area – quiet lanes, not really too many steep gradients, beautiful villages with refreshments and also a good network of VTT tracks. The tourist information offices have lots of free leaflets and maps – try the ones in Puy L’Eveque and Duravel. There is a particularly good set of routes produced by The Lot tourist board – http://www.tourisme-lot.comOver coffee and croissants I pour over the 1 in 25,000 map as I want to explore tracks alongside a large loop in The Lot to the east near Grezels. Choosing an off road bike for practicality I planned quiet lanes over towards the area I was to explore. Memories of cycling through this area on a journey on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela several years ago came flooding back. On that occasion I spent a night in Cahors and cycled alongside The Lot somewhere, tasting the dark red wine of the area for the first time. I remember how the French people heartily welcomed a lone cyclist and how considerate car drivers were as opposed to the UK.
Soon I was on a well signed cycle route through steepish hills amongst the vines and on down towards The Lot. Here I left the road to follow a grassy track alongside the river passing an old mill on a side stream. At a slipway there were plaques showing the heights of ‘recent’ floods, March 1912 appeared the worst. I’ve seen The Lot in flood and it’s a frightening sight.As I cycled along a green lane by the river I came across the newish tourist passenger boat sailing by, operating from Puy L’Eveque it seems a fairly tame trip.Much better to hire a canoe from the same people and explore yourself. A little further upstream is one of the canoe launching sites I’ve used in the past below a new wear and lock. I once found it surprisingly hard work getting back to Puy with my young Grandson against a strong headwind, kept getting blown back up the river whenever I stopped paddling for a rest.
The lane left the river through fields of sunflowers which were just coming into bloom. They are a classic summer sight in this region of France.
I pedaled along happily, pleased with my chosen route alongside the river. Even better was my arrival in previously unvisited Pescadoires which turned out to be a delightful hamlet just above the river. In the village square by the 11th century church [with its series of Gargoyles] I had a potted history of the place from a lady out of one of the adjacent houses. She also proudly told me she lived next door to an English family who fly in for short breaks – such is the nature of modern travel. I wonder how many English own houses in the area and how this has affected traditional community life and the prices for the locals. My French wasn’t good enough to delve into those issues.Road cycling took me through Lagardelle as the clock struck 12 – mad dogs and Englishmen…. and on to Grezels. The restaurant La Terrace here had an interesting 18euro lunchtime menu, would return. Again in the village some of the buildings displayed faded old signs from the recent past. These rural places must have been much more vibrant 50years ago.
Happy with my morning’s cycle I returned home the same way I’d come, this being the soft option rather than a longer loop over steep hills. Next time! and in any case I was ready for lunch. The afternoon temperature rose to 34C in the shade, they were harvesting the rapeseed in the adjacent field so the Kites were flying in. As a bonus in the evening we were visited by a deer and her fawn.