Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eté d'Amour

So we left you all and the last input at the start of Spring, when things were just about starting to really grow, turn greener and flowers, blossoms and vegetables were budding, germinating and blooming!

The seasons change here with more of an impression as your garden doesn't stop when your road starts, you garden seems to link into and onto the fields which lead onto the hills and then beyond so you can really see when the seasons turn. The animals and birds too and living out here in this vast open countryside we have become so much more preceptive of what has been going on around us. 
Throughout the winter months it seemed it was the wild boar or the 'Sanglier' as they are called here, who stole the show most weeks. They tear through the crops and fields damaging everything in their path. The local shoot come with their dogs and get rid of them and are probably the most hunted mammal in France
 So after the local shoot had already presented us with boar that had torn through the fields at La Forêt before Christmas, by the time they had come around again there was already enough to feed a small army in the freezer at La Forêt so we were told to take it home enjoy it! And we did just that... However, it doesn't come to you butchered...that bit Jon did, after watching a bit of youtube of course. (Not for the light hearted...!!) We haven't been disturbed by any since then and quite frankly have had enough boar to last a small lifetime! From sticky BBQ ribs to the most incredible wild boar stew... we were eating it for a while. Of course we shared it with neighbours and friends!

After the wild boar through the colder months, it was birds, birds and more birds. Of every kind, colour and size. From the large blue Heron that would pose by the pond to the Hoopoe's that would sit and dart across the courtyard at La Forêt. Large owls at night and eagles and hawks during the day. Partridges crossing the road as you would come down the drive to the tiniest swallows. Even one day we were stunned by the sight of a tree by the side of the road that was covered, litererally in white turtle doves. I tried to get a picture after making Jon reverse and drive back but the noise of the car startled them and they all flew off.

From time to time and especially when there's a change in the weather we are rewarded with a view of the stunning snowcapped Pyrénées which sit on the horizon to the left of our view from here at Le Pehaou. On the way towards the market in Aire sur l'Adour you get a really good view of them and it's a pretty amazing site. We decided to drive towards them one day and get closer... traffic jams and coffee breaks on route though but only an hour and 45 minutes away.

After four long full months of hard work doing all major repairs, painting and decorating we were eager to spend some time with friends. Its great out here in the country and we have lived and breathed it but friends to keep you a bit sane is never a bad thing, only once in a while though... It had been an amazing winter and in the lead up to Spring and after all the work it was nice to have small break...We got to see our first session in the fantastic old bullring in the village of Estang, the historic bullring founded in 1901 is surrounded with its large red painted stand... A spectacular setting and exciting to watch if you have not seen it before. Once you've seen the first half though, it gets slightly repititous so by the second half you can sneak out! They have music and a live band and a loud speaker for the commentator to introduce the bull, who is the star of the show, where its come from and how old...all stays fairly friendly and the matadors do their jumps and spins in the air as the bull charges past. A family affair and no killing involved but intense at some points and the crowds shriek and scream as the bull spits and fights to get closer to the matador. 

The end of April we celebrated Jon's birthday and we did this in true style at the incredibly stunning Michel Guérard restaurant La Ferme aux Grives - a must if you are in this part of France. One of the most amazing restaurants and a real treat for the senses from the food to the surroundings. The food is beyond exquisite and the gardens and restaurant transport you into a place that is so very French with all it's rustic wood, peeling paint and stunning array of everything local and fresh - a feast for the eyes and tummy!  

We also celebrated in true 'Kennedy/Chevalier' style with Friends both here and over Easter we travelled near Perpignan where we were able to enjoy Toulouse on the way. Easter celebrations with a parade through the village and time spent with Andrea, James & Harry, who are in France nearly as much as we are! 

In early May we were lucky to both be apart of Harry's Christening whilst we were in London for a very quick pitt stop. A magical day and one that this little boy can cherish forever through photos and memories  - I know I certainly will. I am a very lucky Godmother too...

And of course there was time spent enjoying the Royal Wedding, bunting was hung, champagne was drunk and these three little royals showed the Gers how to party!

As the seasons changed the temperatures did too and we had days where it got as hot as 33°C! Watering all the gardens and pots here at home and at work became a full time job, morning and night and evenings were spent trying to keep cool. No complaints at all but funny how it was winter we were sat pretty much on top of the fire trying to keep warm and now we are wearing next to nothing fanning ourselves! Jon's hair was getting longer and longer, becoming too hot, so like the locals do here, it all came off...

It's a different view that we see now, of course the same landscape of rolling hills and trees but more green was added to the paintbrush as it swished across the rolling hills of the Gers... We even have masses of bright yellow, to the eye you might think rape, well we had plenty of that... I'm talking fields and fields of sunflowers. It is such a pretty sight. Amazing to see all their heads towards the sun, big yellow faces and they are literally everywhere. That was the best welcome into Summer here for us really. After growing 4 or 5 in our Battersea shoebox garden we feel lucky to have a mass of garden like this where we can appreciate so many! 

With the retreat weekends in full swing from Yoga to Cycling camps we have been really busy over these least few months. Time seems to have flown by and I can't believe we are already falling deep into a balmy hot Summer... seemed like yesterday we were in the mountains covered in snow. The retreat weekends are a promise of everything you want and then more from delicious home cooked local food to relaxation in the stunning setting that is La Forêt. Check out the recently update website, another feast for the eyes and lots of my photography! We both work hard in the lead up to these weekends preparing the house and gardens and then over the weekends doing everything from shopping, cooking, food preparations, table settings and serving. The flower arranging and house styling are all part of that too. The weekends have been a huge success and we both really enjoy working on them together.

Spending a morning in the market is a real treat too especially when we can go and enjoy the sights and smells and not be rushed to get back and start cooking. Having spent many a Thursday at Eauze market we also spend time Tuesdays and Saturdays at the market in Aire sur l'Adour, which is in the other direction towards Pau, about a 15 minute drive away...

Locals enjoying their morning coffee & Armagnac in the market!

French & Mediterranean foods

My market boy!


So everything starts to bloom and flower and with that an abundance of colour everywhere and even a bounce in your step! Seriously it has just been a special time, even though extremely busy in the gardens - we are rewarded by the finer things in life and thats all of this to sit back and enjoy at the end of the day...

One of our favourite hangouts at La Bastide d'Armagnac

Time in between retreat weekends, rental guests and all the gardening we do everyday we began working hard at organising the wedding, with months to go everything started to get booked and confirmed. From the dresses and suits to the details on each table from flowers, to tablecloths and from dinner to dancing, we have been working at arranging and preparing what we hope to be a brilliant and amazing day to remember. Invitations were designed and inspired by the ancient crumbling walls and colours that surround the villages and the cities. These stunning archways in Bordeaux are just magical and one of my inspirations for our invitations. A few special places was also apart of the detail in creating the invites. Using every detail I could to portray what it is that I feel when I am here to family and friends across the globe was a real test but also one that I enjoyed so much. A memorable keepsake I hope and something that excites the senses too!

Can't complain about table planing sessionss when you have a view like that behind you!

So a day at the office can't be too bad when you get there to see that one of the Hens who has been sitting on her eggs for the last couple of weeks has become mother to these two very adorable little chicks! Something to write to home about thats for sure..

A few days spent enjoying the country life with friends. By the lake for a Gascon picnic of local Brebis cheese, bread and chilled local wine... in the garden for a BBQ, where we spent hours star gazing at the night sky and then a day by the sea ... Here you seem to get a bit of it all.

We see many cyclists in these parts - it is a hugely popular site for cycling!

Our favourite cheese
The white horse still appears in the doorway of the barn up the road

Eat like a Gascon
We have both already been called 'Gascons' and with that our pace of life has most definitely slowed down. So much so that I have been told I am a bit too slow now! I guess a bit of a compliment as it only took 5 months to slow right down, shake off our busy intense London heads and become like the people here... Relaxed and chilled. Take each day as it comes and do everything in the 'Gers' pace... only up until you have Londoners to serve at the dinner table and if you are too slow the food gets cold! It can't be a bad thing too much of the time but I guess when you hit the post office forgetting what it is you needed to post then you become ever so slightly worried! It's been good for us, it has been a real test of our strength as a couple and it is also been rather life changing, literally. A lesson or two or three (even more) has been taught and learnt and the skills we have learnt along the way are ones that we will keep forever. It has become a special place to us both for many of the same reasons but also for many different reasons and we both hope for years to come we can visit this part of France, have a drink with the locals, the cheese man, the vegetable man and of course all the friends we have made and look at how much this one year has meant to us both.

With three months to go, it feels like time is running away, with a wedding only weeks away and the thought of heading back to London town with our heads full of lazy, summer, Gascon haze feels like a lot to deal with but surely we can embark on any journey now? We will miss this part of France hugely but to have an experience like this we will never forget and of course the chance to always return... its onwards and upwards! With Coco of course!