Tag Archives: France

THE LOT. A HOLIDAY DIARY.

Puy L’Eveque on the Lot River.

I’ve just returned from three weeks staying in my friend’s house in the Lot Valley, France.  The weather as you can imagine, in August, was hot and sunny.

The first week was shared with the owners and their family, the second two weeks one of my sons came out with his family.

Here is a snapshot of daily life.

Day 1.  Hot air balloon. Awoke this morning to see across the vineyards a hot air balloon landing through the mist over towards Vire. They must have had a fantastic flight in the clear morning air. I don’t know where they launch from, an unusual start to the holiday.

Day 2. Men in orange. It turns out that this Thursday is a French Bank Holiday, we get caught out with the shops being closed.  This explains why the hunters are out in the combe, dogs try to flush out deer or wild boar into the open. Not a good time to go walking. Thankfully there were no shots heard this morning.

Day 3. Full moon. I seem to often visit whilst there is a full moon which shines brightly over the back of the house and garden whilst we are finishing supper.

Day 4. In the pool. The two young children make the most of the pool as the temperature sores into the 30s.

Children, father and grandma.

Day 5. BMF training. Saturday back home in Leeds is BMF training session in Roundhay Park so the exercises were recreated on the lawn. It all looked very energetic and powerful from my viewpoint on a lounger.

Day 6. French walkers. Each day I get out for a short walk, often before breakfast. My favourite is up the garden into the woods and then back down The Combe de Filhol. Today I extend my walk around the Orienteering Course in the woods across the way. I come across a group of French walkers, holidaying in the area, marching along with a map. Normally I see no one but today as I zigzag about I bump into the same group several times, they look a little uneasy as I keep appearing from the undergrowth.

Day 7. Hints of autumn.  On my walks I started noticing fungi pushing through the undergrowth. Unfortunately they looked poisonous, On the other hand, the mirabelles, small plums, were prolific and once stewed provided many delicious desserts with yoghurt or ice cream.

Day 8. All change. I take mine hosts back to the airport and await the arrival of my family group. They are quickly through passport control, how will this be next year after Brexit?   I drive them back with a short coffee break in Isseagac, a charming Bastide town.

Day 9. Garden games. A lot of time was taken up with games in the garden. Boules, table tennis, french cricket, croquet etc. The competitive spirit was well demonstrated in croquet where some most unfriendly manoeuvers were taken.

Day 10. On the bike. For some of my longer excursions, I took one of the bikes with me but ended up walking as much as riding due to the terrain and the bike’s gears’ obstinacy. One of my favourite trips which I hadn’t made for some time was over the hills to St. Martin le Redon in the Theze valley. Firstly over to Touzac then over the river Lot on a splendid metal bridge. Near here is a good swimming spot in the slow running river, popular in the heatwave, One of the GR routes is joined to go over another group of hills down into the Theze valley. St. Martin is a sleepy village but has gained a little cafe since I was last here; a welcome addition. In the valley is a string of limestone cliffs which I often climbed on in happier times. Hilly tracks take me over to Duravel and slowly back to the house.

Day 11. More exercise. As if last weeks exercises hadn’t been enough my own family started on more each day. Matthew and Lou’s seemed fairly casual but Sam was into serious workouts in between fast runs.

Day 12. Shush! there’s a deer in the garden. The orchard higher up the garden has numerous apple trees which drop their fruit at this time of year. It is a regular event for deer to visit the garden for this fruit and Alex spotted one tonight, well done; they don’t hang around long.

Day 13. Off to market. Sunday is market day at the nearby town of Montcuq.  There is a market somewhere every day but this one is very popular with locals and tourists. Every sort of stall [produce, clothing, antiques etc.] street entertainment and an interesting village to explore.

Day 14. The Poolman cometh. An ageing hippy drives up in his Morris Minor van, he has a collection of them, and cleans the pool.

Day 15. Snakes and glow worms.

Day16. More pool activities.  The weather was perfect for relaxing in the pool. One of the challenges was to do a length on the banana,

Day 17. Orienteering. In the woods I’ve set up a simple orienteering course. The family were keen to try it and being competitive split into two groups, I’ll call them the tortoises and the hares. They disappeared for an hour or so and needless to say the more careful tortoises came in first. This proved the hardest to find in a pile of stones in the middle of the trees…

Day 18. Eating in and out. We have mainly eaten at the house, two vegans to feed plus two picky ‘enfants’. Despite that, the family have eaten out at several local restaurants. Chips and salad is the best option for vegans in France. For a special occasion, I specifically booked the nearest place we could walk to. Le Caillau is a lovely courtyard restaurant with a reputation for good food. They told me they could cater for Vegans. My family appreciated the atmosphere and the food but I thought they could have been a little more creative with the seasonable vegetables, What have I missed out – wine tasting, Martignac with its Medieval church, lavoir and cazelle, Buzzards, Bastide towns, castles, mosquitos, kayaking and LOTS  more.

Day 19. Chez mois.  Je suis de retour a la maison maintenant, c’est l’Automne.   Que fait Boris?

 

LAZING IN THE LOT.

I had no plans for the holiday at my friend’s house [above] in The Lot Valley, France. This was my first time abroad for nearly a year and I struggled to get insurance. I’m feeling as fit as anything but because of the tablets I’m having to take etc no one wants to know me. The insurance I managed covers walking up to 1000m which is ridiculously low – there are road passes in France double that height. For now it doesn’t matter but I’ll take it up with them later.

As usual, I was ‘chef’ for the house and made use of as much fresh produce as possible, the supermarkets here have a huge choice. Lunches were salads and evening meals featured fish quiet often. The weather was hot so nobody was wanting large meals though large quantities of the local wines were drunk. This is the land of the dark ‘Cahors’ Malbec reds but also good dry rosés. Local restaurants were revisited though on several occasions I was happy to miss out and dine alfresco by the pool.

Most mornings before the house was awake I would do a circuit from the garden up into the woods and then down into the secluded Combe de Filhol. I love this route of a couple of miles, I often see deer and there are masses of flowers in the meadow above the combe. Orchids and poppies were prominent at this time of year.

An extra attraction was kestrels nesting in a wall in the buildings in the combe. One nestling was happy to pose for me.

A couple of days before we left a Jay fledgeling was found on the patio, it didn’t appear to get any food from its parents. As I was having breakfast on our last day suddenly another fledgeling dropped from the maple tree, there must have been a nest up there all the time with the adult Jays coming and going in secret. I wonder what happened to the two Jay fledgelings.

I walked the hills behind the house up to the prominent communication tower and thoroughly enjoyed the rollercoaster of a ridge with views over The Lot valley with the villages of Duravel and Puy L’Eveque down below.

Up here the thyme created a heady summer fragrance and butterflies were making the most of the sunny weather.

A couple of afternoons I enjoyed walks with my host if there was someone to help with his wife. I think he will need new boots before we return,

The longest day passed and there was a Strawberry Moon.

I worked in the garden and picked up a Tick for my troubles.

We were lucky to leave France before a record-breaking heatwave was due to arrive.

 

A LITTLE MORE OF THE LOT.

It’s the end of August and I’m back in the Lot Valley, France, for a couple of weeks as is usual.

The house of my friends is as welcoming as ever and the weather is perfect. The problem is I can’t get out of bed in the morning. My stiffness in shoulders and hips has intensified and nobody sees me until lunchtime when I’m the head chef. After that I’m semi OK and can walk up the easy Combe de Filhol behind the house. To my amazement on an oak tree I spot a luxuriant fungi. Orange and yellow bracts sprout from the tree, I’ve no idea what it is but I suspect it is edible and return to cut off a few slices.

A quick search suggests, no proves, it is  ‘chicken in the woods’  – a delicacy in some regions. Without further to do I fry a piece up and season up with salt and pepper. It tastes good but more like a lemon flavoured mushroom than chicken. I start with a small piece, some people are allergic to them, but the next day fry up more pieces for friends who realise I’m not dead.

Nothing to do with the fungus but I slowly become worse with the stiffness and pain, almost certainly PMR [look it up], and have to resort to the steroids prescribed to me. I take two after breakfast and two the same evening and miraculously the next morning I’m virtually back to normal. Life is returned and  I’m able to do some gardening, swim and go on my usual walks around the area. I enjoy a lovely walk along the ridge to the communication tower and back along the vineyards. Buzzards flying above and butterflies fluttering alongside, blues and clouded yellows. From the ridge I have great views of Puy L’Eveque above the River Lot and am impressed by the size of the church above the town, arrowed below. I don’t think I’ve ever visited it,

So a couple of days later we make a pilgrimage to investigate. What a find! The church of Saint Sauveur began in the 13th century and is in an elevated position with views over the valley. It is of course built from limestone giving it a clean bright appearance. There is an elegant arched entrance porch soaring up to the bell tower. Elaborate stone carvings are found above the door. The interior is generally plain with high vaulted Gothic arches but there are fine stained glass windows. Coming back outside we can see where the building was extended in the  C19th. High on the North East wall is a strange observation tower. Surrounding the church are masses of burial vaults.

Apart from that it is mainly eating and drinking at the numerous local hostelries. In particular Le Pigeonnier alongside the River Lot gives a fine view of Puy L’Eveque’s medieval houses rising from the valley. In contrast Le Cote Lot restaurant in the Bellevue Hotel has a fine terrace room looking down onto the Lot below. Le Caillau courtyard restaurant close to the house has a romantic atmosphere with fine food but due to its popularity we found the service has deteriorated. More fine evening dining was experienced at La Venus Restaurant in nearby Prayssac and of course we made our usual pilgrimage to the Brit Hotel in Fumel for their fabulous lunchtime buffet.

Looking up at Puy L’Eveque from Le Pigeonnier.

Looking down from Cote Lot to the river.

Le Caillau courtyard.

The Brit’s Buffet.

Back at the house mirabelles, quince, plums and figs all collected locally gave a healthier balance to our diet.

It will be a wrench returning to the UK as Autumn starts.

LOWS AND HIGHS IN THE LOT.

 

Attention, chiens méchants.

As we pulled into the house after our flight  a nightingale was singing in the maple tree, the one in front of the house with the misletoe. A great welcome. It continued its sweet song for the rest of the holiday but despite scanning the trees with binoculars I never convincingly saw that small brown songster. The Magnolia grandiflora was producing ‘grandiflora’ – all was lovely.

https://www.british-birdsongs.uk/common-nightingale/

 

Next door neighbours have changed and there were a couple of yappy dogs guarding their ‘secure’ enclosure. The next day mine hostess was walking up the road when the two dogs came out onto the highway and bit her severely on the leg. Fortunately she escaped relatively lightly with nasty bites and bruising. Apparently they have bitten before and have been seen chasing cyclists. The next few days were spent between doctor, mayor and the police. The neighbours were most unhelpful and denied any guilt, the worrying point is they have a two-year old child sharing the space with the dogs which turn out to be miniature Dobermanns! We will leave it with the local police to sort out but I’ve grave doubts about the outcome, surely enough is enough.

Not as pleasant as they appear above painful bites followed —

 

So what else? I decided to call it ‘save a tree week‘. Well not just one but several conifers which have been neglected and have other species growing up  within them destroying their lower branches which will not regrow. The species in question include oaks, cherries. maples. clematis, ivy and numerous unidentified sticky plants. This meant full on plant warfare. Clearing the worst before going in with the strimmer and mower, they should be OK now for a further five years.

As well as my gardening endeavours the fields of rape seed surrounding the house were harvested by massive machinery, this attracted the local buzzards looking for small prey.

All was not stress and work. The weather superb with the pool refreshing in the hot temperatures. We enjoyed some excellent French meals at various restaurants in the area.

Each day I walked/ran up the hill behind the house and then down the Combe De Filhol before breakfast. Not a major trip but one getting me back into fitness for the mountains this summer. I managed to wear out my trainers.

An eventful trip to The Lot which could have been so much better.

 

A LOT OF WORK.

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.

SIZZLING IN THE LOT.

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…

LOLLING AROUND IN THE LOT.

Puy L'Eveque.

Puy L’Eveque.

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….