Author Archives: Barb and Derek

Final Days

We have decided to bring our departure forward by a couple of days. The weather has turned very windy and chilly and is not forecast to improve before the weekend. In fact, there is snow on the way for the centre.

Volvo with roof box

Volvo with roof box

There seems little point in killing time here so we have packed all our possessions, prepared the bikes, readied the Volvo and cleaned up the roof box. Tomorrow, Tuesday, we will start to pack the car and then clean the villa ready to leave on Wednesday morning.
The plan is to drive north to Cours-Les-Barres to see David and Blandine (and Indy) and then continue our journey on Thursday to Honfleur. We will then leave early on Friday morning to arrive in Calais in time for the 11.50 Eurotunnel crossing.

So, all being well, we shall be at the Arnhem Wharf flat around 1.30 on Friday where a whole new kind of adventure will begin.

Packing up

Les Trois Oliviers in Castelnau de Guers has been our home since late September but it’s now time to pack our bags and boxes ready for the drive back up through France to Eurotunnel and on to London for the start of February. Oh, we will miss the French food, wine, cafés and markets but most of all the blue skies, the dry air and the lovely light! Derek will really miss cycling on quiet roads with lovely scenery too!

We are packing up slowly, sorting out new address admin and keeping an eye on weather forecasts for driving north on Friday. It’s very windy here at the moment but of more concern is possible bad weather around the Millau bridge next week – we’ll see. We’ve got overnight stops planned in Nevers with David and Blandine and at the Ibis Hotel at Honfleur.

So, this is the last week of our road trip – the European adventure which, as well as long stays in France, has taken us to Spain, Portugal, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. Too many highlights and too many contrasts to pick out favourite places – we’ve loved it all really. Next stop – London. After that, who knows!

A Wet Monday

IMG_2782January 19th – an early start today as Gillian & Michael are booked on the 6.58 TGV from Montpellier to Lille so up at 5.30 and off along the A9.

The forecast for today is rain and this started just after we set off and so the journey on the motorway was wet. We made good time however, didn’t get lost and arrived at the station at 6.20 – plenty of time. The journey back was just as easy and I pondered if this would be my last transit through the tolls!

Back at the villa by 7.00 – still dark and quite chilly so several cups of tea and a catch up with the news and various emails. Apparently today is ‘Blue Monday’ and this weather is set in for the day. Can’t remember the last time we had a day of rain – so a few chores and a bit of work to keep us busy.



Another Birthday

IMG_2777Birthday celebrations spread over a few days this year.  We had a nice afternoon on Wednesday in Montpellier before meeting Gillian and Michael at the station and Barb bought a few birthday treats in favourite shops, Petit Bateau and Longchamps.  Had a wander around IKEA and tried to get into the mindset of living in a small London apartment – quite a contrast to French village style.  All of a sudden, we’re thinking grey walls, stainless steel and minimalism!

IMG_2768 IMG_2781G and M treated us to lunch at Bistrot Alex in Florensac on Friday and bought Barb some lovely roses at Pezenas market on Saturday plus we’ve done all our favourite walks (Via Domitia, St. Antoine, Marseillan, St. Simeon  and Montagnac in the sunshine  – the Montagnac walk accompanied by a lively stray dog! Champagne, of course, in the evening.

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We finished the weekend off with Raclette and yet more Picpoul de Pinet.  Back to the quiet life on Monday!

Planete Velos

Wednesday and Friday were rest days from cycling so we set off on our favourite walks.  On Wednesday we did ‘Via Domitia’ and then headed to Bistrot Alex in nearby Florensac for lunch.  Lovely food and service again – really first rate!  The sun shone so we went on to Marseillan after lunch and had a stroll along the waterside and then a drink by the harbour.  Danny made some lovely sausage rolls for supper – a really gourmet day!

IMG_0328On Friday, their last full day, Danny persuaded us all to do the long St Antoine walk.  It was beautiful weather again and after lunch we sat by the pool for a while while Derek returned Britt’s rental bike to Caux.  Danny started to dismantle his bike ready to pack it into the bike box but discovered the headset bolt had seized.  We were heading into Pezenas for a drink so we dropped in to Planete Velos, our local bike shop, who promised to fix it by the morning.

IMG_0201Sure enough, they sorted it by drilling it out and putting in a new bolt.  Danny was so impressed, he bought a souvenir shirt.  So, after a final stroll around the Saturday morning market and a final coffee and cake at Cafe des Arts, it was time for packing and off to Montpellier airport for the flight back to Gatwick.  Back in Wimbledon, their flat greeted them with a nasty smell – the electricity had gone off and so had some meat and fish in their freezer!

Tout le monde est touché

candleSince we’ve been here is southern France we have subscribed to Langudoc Living – an email English version of local and international news. The Sunday edition is entitled “Sunday Croissant” and has more of a magazine style. Each Sunday Geraldine tries to improve our French by giving us a few tips about French culture and the French language. This week however she provides a very emotional insight into why the events of this week have touched so many. If you’re interested, the link below is worth a look!



France is in a state of shock!! Everywhere we go we see “JE SUIS CHARLIE”

A small subdued rally in Pezenas tonight was typical – hundreds of ordinary people walked into the centre in silent thought about the horrors of the last few days!!  Many were wearing t-shirts and carrying banners and t-shirts were on sale.  Most of the shop windows carried posters.

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A sad day!

IMG_2758A sad day in France today which has been declared a national day of mourning! Flags are at half mast everywhere and there was a minute’s silence this morning. Even the little campsite near our villa flew their flags to remember yesterday’s events in Paris.

Guest Blogger – Danny

IMG_2738Derek and I have got a good few miles under our belts in the near three weeks I have been here. From an Xmas Day blowing away of the cobwebs to a longer 60 mile ride taking in the hills, dodging boar hunters and scoffing jam sarnies, we have covered quite a few of the local routes.


IMG_0744 IMG_0739In our week as a group of three we have battled the infamous headwinds and tackled La Roquette; our reward – views as far as the snow capped Pyrennes. We have even survived a bit of gear trouble solved basically by giving the bike a clean. Into our last week now, we plan a final couple of rides, a short one just to keep the legs turning and then one last long one. Britt has already expressed her desire to break her ‘longest ride’ record so we will be packing extra sarnies and hoping for a friendly tail wind.

IMG_0747Final update: a 42 mile route with two steep climbs today – Britt smashed her distance record and finished with a flourish battling up the Castelnau hill on our return. Our next group ride will be back in UK later in the year.


Saturday was full of our favourite things – sunshine, a market, coffee and cake, a long lunch, a rugby match and fireworks,

IMG_2714IMG_2711After a prolonged chilly spell, the temperature shot up to 15-20 degrees so we spent the morning in Pezenas strolling around and buying our usual haul of fruit, veg, cooked chicken and other goodies.  Highlights included Britt sampling a petit pate de Pezenas and the truffle man letting Barb sniff his truffles!  It was busy in town with both locals and tourists enjoying the sunshine and the last weekend of the Xmas/New Year break.  We bought the two special cakes – la galette des rois and la couronne – both designed to celebrate the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem.  Both contain a little plastic figure and whoever gets them in their slice is king for the day!  Derek and Danny were the lucky winners.

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IMG_2730In the afternoon, Montpellier rugby club were on much better form than of late and to our delight beat the mighty Toulon 16-12. The stadium was packed, flags were waved and spirits were high – exciting stuff.  At 6.30 when the game finished, they set up fireworks on the pitch, turned the lights out and wow! – a fantastic display.  We were home by about 8.30pm and ended the day eating chilli for supper by a roaring log fire.