New Year

IMG_0735The week between Xmas and New Year seemed to whizz by – Derek and Danny did lots of bike rides in the mornings, we generally ate a big lunch and then walked it off in the afternoons.  The weather is cold, bright and sunny with a sometimes very chilly wind blowing though we’ve had lunch on the sheltered patio most days.  Danny has been working on his laptop, organizing the Always Riding sale while Derek has chopped firewood and I’ve made vats of soup, ratatouille, pates and quiches.  On Tuesday we popped to Intermarche for a few groceries and found the entire town’s population out buying food for New Year so we sort of joined in, realising that we ought to stock up for a one day public holiday!

calOur new year activities are pretty similar to our old year activities – cycling, walking, trips to boulangeries and supermarkets, eating, wandering around Pezenas, coffees and beers in Cafe des Arts, jigsaws, cooking etc.  Danny and Derek saw out 2014 with a big ride of 60 miles which took Derek to a total of 440 miles for the month of December  – a fine achievement which compensates for over indulgence in Picpoul de Pinet, festive champagne, cheese and pastries.

Britt flew in to Montpellier on Jan 1st and the young people are brightening up our lives in all sorts of ways, including introducing us to the After Eight challenge of getting a mint from forehead to mouth.  Derek got rather warm and over excited, resulting in mint meltdown around the nose.

We are awaiting delivery of Britt’s rental bike this afternoon and then the Lycra clad three will be off into the hills, leaving me in peace for a few hours with just the catering to organise.  Tomorrow is a busy day – Pezenas market in the morning and rugby in the afternoon – Montpellier v Toulon.

This is the last month of our stay in the south of France and the end of our 15 month road trip approaches.  We’re heading for London in Feb but who knows what’s next??

Christmas Week Part 2

Christmas Day

IMG_0199A nice morning so Danny and I decide to do a short ride – just 12 miles. Before setting off we walk to the Boulangerie for fresh bread and croissants and then Danny re-builds his bike and we do the Florensac, Pomerol, Pinet loop. Back at the villa we have another breakfast and potter about. No pressies this year – we are obviously on the naughty list!


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IMG_0200Lunch today is turkey paella – we have a light lunch and then off on the St Antoine walk, a 7 km circular route from the house. More food and drink when we return and in the evening we FaceTime the family and eat our way to bedtime.

A lovely calm Christmas day in the south of France.


Christmas Eve

The weather was too good this morning not to ride so a quick 15 mile circuit before anything else. Back at the house there were chores to do – more log cutting, cleaning and final prep for Danny’s arrival.

IMG_2694IMG_2698Easyjet and Gatwick airport were on better form this year and the flight took off on time so after lunch we headed to Montpellier to meet it. Danny arrived to glorious weather and after a bit of a struggle to get the bike box in the car we drove back to Castelnau to unload.

After tea and biscuits we nipped into Pezenas for a wander, a few beers and a chicken! A lovely early evening stroll through the town, all lit up and with Christmas music playing over the Tannoy system. The place was busy with people collecting last minute goodies including huge trays of seafood that were being prepared in the street. Oysters, shellfish, prawns and langoustines all wrapped in cellophane.

IMG_2699We had a couple of beers at Cafe des Arts which was busy with festive locals and incoming Brits and Barb met a lovely big dog who took a liking to her. We picked up the chicken and bought 3 langoustines at €3 each to decorate the turkey paella tomorrow.

Back at the villa we began the Christmas eating and drinking – Belgian beer, Picpoul de Pinet, Bouaillbaisse, French cheese, Pinet de Charentes and chocolates.



Christmas week

Monday 22nd December


Morning frost

A chilly start – in fact there was quite a heavy frost but the sky is blue and the sun is shining. Virtually no wind so I’d planned a long bike ride up towards Bédarieux. The route took me north to Caux and on to Neffies and up and over la Rouquette. Further north to Cabrieres and then through the hills to Valmascle. It was just about 2 hours to this point and here I turned back south towards La Montade, Gabian, Pouzoles and Tourbes. Arriving back at the villa about 2.00 I’d covered just under 50 miles and taken 4 hours. There were some of the biggest climbs I’d done here in France and because of the weather which got better and better, I really enjoyed it.

After a quick recovery it was off to Intermarche to do the bulk of the Christmas shop and then to Carrefours to pick up a few things they didn’t have. I also bought diesel at €1.09 a litre!!

In the evening we watched the first of the BBC Christmas offerings – pretty awful really and caught up with emails and a bit of work. As we seem to have rather a lot of logs – nicely cut up now – we decided to try and keep the fire in overnight.

Tuesday  23rd December

Another chilly start, the day started with porridge. It was log splitting and cutting for me while Barb did her exercises. She’s been doing this conscientiously while we’ve been away (with a few little breaks) and largely succeeded in clearing up the back problem that plagued her before we set off on our travels. The fire stayed in overnight – a gentle glow when we got up turned into a roar when I opened the vents and we quickly had a good fire going. By 11.00 we were ready to head into Pezenas on the bikes to try and order a cooked chicken for Christmas Eve pick-up. We closed up, got all our gear on and headed for the garage only to find that Barb’s bike had a puncture. Undaunted I removed the wheel, changed the tube and re-assembed everything only to find the back brake seriously rubbing. Another 20 minutes of bike maintenance!! By now it was too late to go in – all shops closed at midday for lunch so we re-think.

Our next task was to give the whole place a good clean in readiness for the Christmas festivities. Vacuuming, mopping, bed making, bathroom cleaning all done. I also get the base for my Christmas Bouillabaisse started and we grab a bit of lunch.

Another failed attempt to get into Pezenas because the back brake on Barb’s bike will not co-operate. Eventually, with some rear wheel re-alignment we set off and get into the market place without further incident. A stroll up to the charcuterie – It’s closed!!! We peer in looking for signs of life and the owner appears at the door telling us he opens again at 4.00. Great!! Barb plunges in with Est-ce-que c’est possible de commander un poulet roti pour demain? Mais oui, il dit. So, after all the trials and tribulations of trying to get in – we succeed in ordering our Christmas cooked chicken from a shop that’s closed!!

Our reward is coffee and cake at Cafe des Arts where we hear lots of English voices – we guess that the Brits have arrived for Christmas. A stroll through the old part of town confirms that the place is buzzing with visitors and many of the shops that have been closed are now open and quite busy. The lights are starting to come on as it begins to get dark so we finish our shopping and cycle back to Castelnau before we lose the light.

This evening we plan to chill in front of the TV again with fresh prawns and French bread.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and Danny arrives at 3.00, flying in from Gatwick.


Vente et Degustation en Pinet

IMG_0193We finally paid a visit to the L’Ormarine Domain in Pinet today to check out the their Picpoul de Pinet. They had several grades but we settled on the fruitier varieties which are a little more expensive. You can buy their table wine in Intermarche for €3.99 (€2.99 when on special) but we  splashed out wildly and bought their top of the range offering at €5.05.

We also picked up some reds – just to try them. Their basic wine is just €2.80 a bottle – if it doesn’t drink well I can always use it to light the fire!!!! There was also a very sweet dessert wine available which we’ll try next time ( we’re still partial to the Pineau des Charentes we discovered in  Chevanceaux).

Sunshine returns

We’ve had a week or so of chilly and cloudy weather. We missed some of this while we were in Toulon but we were beginning to wonder if we would ever see the sun again. Today however saw the return of the sunshine. A bit breezy perhaps but quite warm and I headed off on the bike. It’s a bit of a battle cycling into this constant headwind but it’s still so so nice riding in France on their smooth quiet roads, blue skies through miles of vineyards. I even checked out the Pinet Co-operative today in preparation for my Christmas order.

IMG_0323IMG_2690After lunch on the patio of home-made burgers, we went to Montagnac to walk it off (I’m back in shorts). We did this route a while back and missed a turn ending up near the sewage works – lovely!!


This time we got it right and had a wander through the vineyards climbing up high to look over the town and the surrounding landscape..

December 18th - Tea by the pool catching the last rays of the sun

December 18th – tea by the pool catching the last rays of the sun

Back at the villa we still had time to sit by the pool and have afternoon tea. The sunset is awesome tonight – a huge vivid red sky. More sun tomorrow we hope.

I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok!!

IMG_0729The logs continue to be a challenge but I think I’m winning – just!!

I’ve bought an axe and a bow saw – how macho is that? They split quite easily lengthways and then I use the bow saw to cut them in half. There are quite a lot however and so this is ongoing. 2 stere is a lot of wood!! I might just have to upgrade to a chainsaw.


IMG_0734The fire however is a real treat and with holly on the mantlepiece it looks very Christmassy.



A weekend in Toulon

IMG_2657We booked tickets and accommodation months ago for Toulon v Leicester Tigers so today saw us driving three hours eastwards to Toulon, a city tucked between the mountains and the Med. We stopped for lunch in Arles and arrived at the Ibis Hotel mid afternoon. The Stade Mayol rugby ground is unusual in being right in the middle of the city – it’s so close to our hotel, I reckon we could pop back to our room for a cup of tea at half time.

IMG_2663IMG_2674We had a wander around the new shopping mall and the older pedestrianised streets – lots of fantastic architecture, a huge market, nice shops, cafés and excellent Xmas decorations everywhere including a winter wonderland and ice rink.


IMG_2665IMG_2659The waterfront is impressive and we spent early evening sitting outside Bistro Le France drinking large beers and eating bruschetta and moules frites. There are lots of Leicester Tigers supporters everywhere all decked out in club kit though mostly without the athletic bodies it was made for.

After last week’s win against Toulon at Welford Road, hopes were high for a good match. Toulon are always strong at home and this proved to be the case. Right from the start they were aggressive, direct and very powerful. Tigers were always firefighting and never really got going. A bit disappointing really – Tigers were never in it; it was 16-5 at half time and the result was never really in doubt. Toulon were just too strong and won 23-8 in the end – they scored a great try right in front of us.

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After the game we ate again on the waterfront and sat outside looking at the boats and listening to the hordes of Tigers fans drowning their sorrows.

Sunday morning – breakfast and another visit to Toulon market. Just magical really. We buy flowers and loads of veggies, chat to the stall holders who are very friendly (the flower man tells Barb he loves her and another gives us free avocados when we buy clementines.)

An easy drive back to Montpellier where we take a break for lunch and pick up groceries in Geant Casino. Eventually arrive home around 4.00. A really good weekend away despite the rugby result and we will get to see the mighty Toulon team again in January when they travel to Montpellier.

The Log Man Cometh

IMG_0724We were delighted to see the log man this morning delivering our 2 stere of logs – this should see us through to the end of our stay.

Our delight was short lived – they are too big for our fire.

Despite taking a sample log when we ordered, they seem to have delivered industrial size logs.

IMG_0725 IMG_0726So – not only did I have to stack them in the garage, I also had to sort them into those that were good, those that might be ok with a bit of encouragement and those that were unusable.


Although we are fine now for a few weeks we have the problem of what to do with a stere of oversize logs – ideas on a postcard please!!

Lunch at Bistrot Alex

IMG_0720The best weather day in a week today – John and Ann’s last – so after breakfast we drive through Pinet and do the Via Domitia walk which looks lovely in the sunshine.  We head towards Florensac for lunch and are delighted to find Bistrot Alex open and quite busy.  It’s been highly recommended and doesn’t disappoint – everything is perfect and all for under 100 euros for the four of us.  The photos show the lovely presentation and we ate every mouthful!