Sunday, 29 August 2010

Biggest sand dune in Europe

For the first time since we arrived in France we have had a weekend to ourselves with no pressing work to be done and no guests!

What could we do with our time?.... It was Megan's last weekend with us before going back to the UK for school, so we decided a day at the beach was in order. Where should we go? So many beaches to choose from and all about 2 hours in the car.

Unfortunately, after such a hot week, the forecast was not brilliant (typical) but being brits we were used to having to take wet weather gear to the beach! Nick, my husband gets ants in his pants if he has to sit for too long so we decided to split our day in two... half a day doing something different and then a few hours on the beach so the kids could play in the sand!

After contemplating which direction to go from Auvillar, we decided we would try West and set off towards Bordeaux, I had read about a giant sand dune just South of Bordeaux near a town called Arcachon and programmed the destination in to the satnav and set off.

After two hours in the car with everyone, I was ready to get out! Why is it that a day trip (which should be fun) always ends up with multiple rows over silly things!..... anyway differences a side, we arrived at the Dune du Pilat.

OMG big is an understatement............... I thought i'd just driven to the Sahara! At 120m high and 3km long, it is the biggest sand dune in Europe and is truly amazing. After standing at the bottom for 10 minutes to take it in, Abigail decided she wanted to climb it without using the steps provided, I had to follow!! I think we only managed about 60m and had to give in and make our way over to the stairs, not that I am a wimp, but in the heat (approx 28 degrees) it was more than a stroll and even the steps were hard slog!

On reaching the top despite being sand blasted, the view that greated us was incredible. We then ran down the steep slope and rewarded ourselves with an ice cream!

Biscarosse beach is just a few km further south, and although the beach was long and amazing the town itself was heartless and just another modern holiday resort. We had only been on the beach for about 45 minutes and the lifeguards called everyone out of the sea using their loud hailers to say a storm was on its way. Within 10 minutes the beach was deserted and we arrived back at the car looking rather bedraggled! Taking the scenic route home we travelled through the Landes forest and rejoined the familiar countryside of the Gers with its rolling hills and fruit production, which was much more interesting. After stopping briefly in Condom and Astaffort, which are beautiful, we arrived home.

The car was emptied of bags and our own mini sand dunes and after grabbing a quick snack all took to our beds early!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A hot weekend in Auvillar

After mixed weather for the last few weeks this weekend has really come good. 35 degrees since Friday, we have been enjoying ourselves by the pool and now that our gite guests have gone, taking advantage of some spare time enjoying the area, although mountains of ironing await!

Megan's friend Daisy has been with us and we have been travelling around the area visiting some of the sights, (with my trusty camera in tow!) Markets, historic towns and local eateries, not to mention visiting Saint Sardos again!

After numerous attempts of going to Moissac and finding the Cloisters closed, I finally made it inside this morning, and wow was it worth the wait.

Hope you like the pics!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Kitten Rescue!

After the grand family debate about increasing our pet allocation following the dog show, we had decided that as we had only been living in the South of France for 4 months, now was not a good time to start building a menagerie!

However............ yesterday proved difficult and resulted in a new kitten!

Nothing was planned, nothing even mentioned about animals and Megan and I went off to Toulouse airport to collect her friend who was coming to stay for a week. En route we had been laughing about the straw pig we had seen at the side of the road in a village called Comberouger advertising their village fete and it was nice to spend some quality time in the car with my daughter. Suddenly I saw the tiniest ginger kitten running towards the car on the busy road in front of me. What could I do?........... but stop the car.

We did a quick U turn and Megan jumped out and grabbed the poor frightened ball of fluff just in time as a huge lorry whizzed passed. I am sure that if we had been just a few seconds later, the story would not have been worth writing!

It clearly was not a wild kitten and immediately started purring in Megans arms. We a quick diversion to a nearby supermarket, where I explained (in my best French!) that we had just rescued a kitten and needed a box to put it in to take it home. She obligued and we continued our journey on to Blagnac.

The kitten however, was not happy and certainly did not like the box. After a short while it had chewed a hole in the side of the box and had got its head stuck. Megan managed to free it just as it passed out due to its wind pipe being squashed! After collecting our guest at the airport, we made our way home, where unfortunately the dogs were less impressed, another life gone!!

Off to the vets this morning to get it checked out and lets hope it doesn't use any more if its nine lives today!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

French village dog show, my ass.....more like crufts en france!

My youngest daughter has been getting rather excited recently as we had been told that each year Auvillar holds a dog show. I spoke to Natalie my friend and she encouraged us to enter the little Jack Russell we have. Thinking that it would be nice for my youngest to take part with our pet dog in a little country french village we registered.

How wrong we were! This was not a little country village dog show with side stalls and a pet class for kids and aged dogs that could do tricks with cast off childrens toys....this was Crufts en France!!!

We arrived and registered feeling a bit excited until we saw the professional cages of dogs being groomed and pampered to look their best and owners running them up and down the park to show off their best lines! Alarm bells didnt ring all day really until it got to our class (I put it down to the heat myself, I need some excuse).

I gave the dog to my daughter to take into the ring, with a friend who could speak better french than my daughter and stood back to watch!!

OMG. Firstly, the judge clearly had not seen a Jack Russell before and had been reading up on the breed from a little pocket guide of dogs on the table as my daughter entered the ring. I know Jack Russells come in all shapes and sizes but our little love is a "Parsons Jack Russell" so a bit taller than the normal dog and the only type of Jack Russell to be registered with the UK Kennel Club. Clearly he did not know that!

Equally, he was being judged as a specimen rather than a pet, which is very different. The judge then went on to say in his loud french voice that our dog would not be able to compete as he had lost a tooth and asked how he had lost it...I said when digging for rabbits!!

Then to my horror he also said "he has no balls and unless he has a vets certificate as to why they have been removed and his pedigree he cannot be entered in this dog show!"

Well, how embarassing, especially as all gathered we obviously professional dog breeders, I wanted to crawl into the hole the dog would normally dig in our garden when living a happy family pet dogs life!!

Fortunately, our entrance money was not wasted as my daughter, very redfaced, left the ring with a consolation prize and a bottle of wine, so at least we could drown our sorrows!

If we do this again next year we need a real dog, nearly bought one too, but not quite!

Monday, 2 August 2010

How long did Megan last fruit picking...........

Guesses on a postcard please!!!

I must give credit where credit is due and although not taxing on the brain, picking apricots and plums in 28 degrees of heat from 8am to 6pm with time off for lunch is not that easy for anyone, especially for a 17 yr old who is not used to the heat or getting her hands dirty but...... she did it!

After day one it was touch and go if day two would even happen. I collected her from the farm at 6pm at the end of the first day and I knew as soon as I saw her I was in for a tough time! She had a face like a smacked behind, was covered in mushy fruit and moaned from the moment she got in the car! After much encouragement day two and day three were four was the last, and I was told she never wanted to do it again!!

Dare I say "in my day"........... perhaps not, too tempting , just put it down to one of lifes experiences Megan!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Saint Sardos wine tasting........hic..hic!

Well need I say more than we have discovered with the help of our first gite guests a fab wine producer, locally!

As you are probably aware we have been on the vide grenier trail for sometime and sourcing furniture for our gites has become a regular sunday morning activity for our family. Oh what it is to spend the best day of the week routing though other peoples rubbish! (not my idea of a great day out.....but nevertheless a means to an end).

This morning we went off to a vide grenier in a little village called Saint Sardos, about 30 minutes south east of Auvillar and Le Farat.

The sun was shining brightly and the approach to the village through fields of sunflowers with the heads bowed low with the weight of the seeds and neatly manicured rows of vines laidened with unripe grapes was beautiful. The village skyline was dominated by huge wine vats atttached to a warehouse. The houses and old church seem to be rather insignificant by comparison.

Various roads were closed with makeshift barriers and cars were parked in any available space, safe or not! The main route from one end of the village to the other was lined with tables selling plates of food (duck and chips for 6€), honey producers, wine, bread and cakes and of course the many vide grenier tables. There was a large area set aside for eating with a stage at one end and there were hundreds of people wandering from stall to stall with a few intent on striking the best deal (including me!)

After buying another bedside table for 40€ and an antique fire poker and spade for 9€ we made our way to the wine warehouse......and that is where we spent most of the morning emerging slightly worse for wear just before lunch having sipped and slurped numerous types of wine and been entertained by a local brass band.

The red wine we chose after much deliberation and repeated tasting was 2006 Bronze award winner at the paris wine festival "2005 Gilles de Morban". fab and very easy to drink and only 4.35€ a bottle. We also chose an aperitif rose wine "coup de Coeur: Fleurise" which has already been opened this afternoon!

Take a look at their website as they will ship internationally