Monday, July 16, 2012

Renovating the Barn - part 1

Work is moving forward on the barn. As soon as we have a laundry room in there finished we can set up our base there while they do the work on the house. Check out the slideshow for progress in stage 1.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Saturdays, Sea and Sunflowers.


Summer Saturdays for the last 10 years have been very busy for us - saying goodbye to guests, cleaning and preparing the gites and meeting and greeting new guests. This year feels very strange. Summer Saturdays are now free for us to do what we will with. So this means for the first time since we moved here we will be able to enjoy all the activities that take place around the Lot-et-Garonne in summer - and we won't be too exhausted on Sundays to do the same.

Recently three local windmills had a fête. All of them are in the process of being restored by a group of volunteers and we were able to visit one of them to see work in progress. On Saturday there was an organised walk accompanied by a professional story teller. When villages have their fêtes and there is a walk or a cycle ride it is a chance to go off the beaten track onto land that is usually private. This walk took us across fields, around a private lake and through beautiful woodland. Each time e passed through a wood we stopped and listened to stories. It was magical as the setting was perfect and the story teller related her tales on French and in Occitan and I was surprised at how many words in Occitan I could recognise.  On Sunday a group of old tractors made the journey from windmill to windmill and then were put on show at the last windmill at Gontaud sur Nogaret where local producers were selling lunch. We had whole duck breast that cost us a mighty 5€ each followed by crêpes made from hazelnut flour - yummy! Then we were entertained by a display of farming machinery including a rope making session and the singing and dancing of a local folklore group. A simple but very enjoyable day - and at the weekend!

Moulin de Grateloup

Every year I see the publicity for the Cognac blues festival but we could never go. This week we went and heard Hugh Laurie sing the blues. We stayed for two nights at the lovely guests house of Franca and Darren Porter delightfully named Au Belle Fleur. On Friday we explored Cognac including visiting a distillery in the Chateau de François1and had dinner with our hosts - we certainly recommend you stay here if you are in the Cognac/Angouleme area. We meandered back on Saturday morning and after an impromptu lunch with friends who had been minding the dog we settled down to an afternoon of Wimbledon.

Tasting the Cognac at the Baron Otard distillery

Hugh Laurie was well worth braving the rain for


The good friends that we have made here are one of the many reasons we have decided to stay in Labretonie. We have a group of French friends who we have known from our very earliest days here. There are 5 French couples and us and although we see each other often we like to get together as a group from time to time. In October we go to the Pyrenees to walk and in May or June we go to the seaside at Cap Ferret near Bordeaux. The last week in June we spent three days there together and we walked by the sea, the men went fishing and we all swam in the sea - the first time for me for many years. It is a delightful spot but best to go before the summer crowds arrive. Of course we had our annual oyster eating fest and they were scrumptious.

The wonderful beaches at Cap Ferret


The sunflowers are a little late this year but many fields are coming into their glory now. They are a beautiful site and last for about three weeks. Luckily there is always another field just coming into it's own as one fades and driving around the countryside is always a delight. Last weekend was our village fête and on Sunday morning there was a walk, a cycle ride and a horse ride and lots of lovely sunflowers to delight the participants (of course all that exercise was followed by a long meal with entertainment).

This is a beautiful region with undulating countryside.The hilltop villages offer panaoramic views over the surrounding fields and you can see the Lot and the Garonne meandering through. No wonder we have no plans to leave our little corner of paradise - and we look forward to many more Summer Saturdays here!

Field after field of sunflowers near our country cottage - even on a dull day they cheer us up!