Sunday, September 26, 2010

Et alors il y avait un serpent et une chauve-souris !

Yes thats right! Coco's offering yesterday was a snake! This time though she brought it right into the house rather than leaving it outside on the doorstep, thankfully it was a baby and Jon managed to put back in the garden using the dustpan and brush! Sadly I didn't get to my camera in time to capture it. Second visitor for the day was a bat! Not an offering from Coco though, the bat managed to fly in through the large patio doors in the bedroom and circled all the rooms in a frantic state cause it couldn't find it's way out! In the end we had to shut it in the bedroom with the doors to the patio open... it left us eventually. Bet you can't say you were visited by a bat and a snake in one day!

Coco & the basil

Spent most of Wednesday morning harvesting more basil and made jars of pesto, using local Brebis cheese as well as a parmesan really makes it. With pasta, meat or even in quiches - delicious. I have been reading lots of cookery books, mainly for our menu for the yoga weekend next week but also for ideas. Some of the best ones borrowed from La Foret ('Moro' & "Arabesque' - if you  haven't yet discovered them then I'd say that they're definitely worth delving into, photography alone is truly inspiring). They have got me very motivated to do more Moroccan, North African and Middle Eastern food. So I decided to preserve lemons which are used in lots of dishes. The thought of tucking into a lamb tagine sitting by the fire as the nights start drawing in. Comfort in a bowl.
Preserved Lemons

Thursday's are market day for us and we head into the town of Eauze where they have a large market selling everything from local cheese, fresh fruit and veg to clothes, bedcovers and sheepskin rugs! Bit like Mong Kok market in Hong Kong! It is fascinating and fun to just walk around but great to do your food shopping too! Further on from Eauze is a beautiful town called Fources which we decided to visit after Jane's recommendation. A stunning medieval village in the heart of it with a bridge over a moat that leads you into this round-a-bout lined with houses and trees all looking like something from a Hansel & Gretal story book. So stunning and beautiful that some of the houses don't look quite real. However arriving after 2pm is too late for lunch, or anything in fact, anywhere, as everything closes! Which, for us is taking time getting used to. We were spoilt back home - with everything on a doorstep and shops open pretty much all day and most of the night. Not complaing, rather like this relaxed, slow-paced way of living but it'll take time getting used to! So after shopping all morning at the market then driving to Fources - we were both starving and after asking the only person around in the Village where we could get food we headed back a little bit and stopped at another charming town called Montreal. A tiny convinence store was open and next to it a bar so we sat and enjoyed a drink with some bread and cheese!

Jon cut his toe open, nothing too serious but the bandaging looks pretty impressive!

In the heart of every town there is a church and a 'Mairie'. Most of the towns have been here for thousands of years but the towns and villages we visted recently are all steeped in history, they all hold their own stories from back in the day...they all seem to be old and slightly crumbling at the edges. There is something rather special about the churches here, their old stone and hard walls are full of character and you can almost hear the hundreds of years of prayers in the walls. Not spooky at all, in a way, rather beautiful and romantic.

The view
Back at Le Pehaou we have really started making it more like home, just two boxes left now, only 4 weeks later! Wooden floor boards and terracotta tiles to wood beams across the ceilings, hard stone walls and a fire place in the living room and our bedroom. We have a big bed, the best bed ever and getting up in the morning to that view is going to be hard to beat anywhere. The trees are still very much green and the temperatures are still mid twenties, last Monday being 30degrees... so sadly unlike your temperatures in London. Cardigan on today and Jon has put the fire on, a little nip in the air but nothing to complain about. There is a tree in garden positioned just to the right of our view of the valley. Its the only one that has lost its leaves. I have to say watching the valley and rolling hills change colour with Autumn looming will be a real treat. I can't wait to see all the reds, oranges, browns and yellows.

There's not much that we are missing just now, apart from all your pretty faces of course. Seeing my bus pass at the bottom of my handbag made me smile. The fact that it has been untouched for weeks now is a great feeling! Nothing really to complain about, even the snake and the bat (we are making new and unusual friends!) maybe the slight language barrior,  but everyday our vocabulary and conversation is improving. Picture us though in a large homeware store trying to buy a mattress and a bed frame...imagine Jon gesticulating in a large manner and his booming voice, accent very english although speaking French... 'excuse-moi, jay voodhrai bed pour moi et petite femme, see vous plait..."!! Even the shop assistants find him hilarious!

As well as churches in every town there are bull rings too. As we are very close to the Spanish border it seems to be a traditional and very competitive sport. Very common in every town too are these fantastic posters, like the old one here that I bought at a Brocante (Antiques fair). Here they do not fight till the death - more till the bull is tired!

Corn on the cob
There we are, left of the first post.
Maybe one day...
Le Pehaou

It seems that we have become country folk sooner than we thought. Ditching the London habits (although I seem to have gotten addicted to the iphone...)and picking up new ones. We drink fine wine and have delicious seasonal fresh food to eat. Fresh bread here is just amazing and the cheese to is hard to resist. Thankfully the days spent working hard in the gardens are keeping us fit, as well as the occasional long walk. Its nice to not drive all the time, which took us no time at all getting used to but to walk anywhere it is miles!! We decided to walk into our view, literally and turned back at the top of the hill to see what we can now call home.

My delicious red wellies, thank you Nicky 

The garlic est tres grandes!

La Bastide D'Armagnac, come visit us and we'll take you there. Magical. Heart of Armagnac country. Excellent.


Saturday, September 18, 2010


Wednesday 1st September 2010, 4.00am, the three of us (3rd being Coco our darling cat) leave south west London for south west France!
Au revoir Angleterre
La Foret
16 hours later we arrive in Estang at the beautiful, serene La Foret where we will be spending the next year working, managing and marketing. Vive La france is what they say and definitely what we will be doing!

Le Pehaou, home sweet home
We moved into our stunning cottage (a 10minute drive from La Foret, just outside the sleepy village of Laujuzan) - Le Pehaou and we have been living here for just over 2 weeks and are settling in to the French country side very well. We have a peripheral view of rolling hills, forests and on a clear day we can even see the Pyrenees - which is just breahtaking and yes we are still pinching ourselves. Oh and we got some sweet wheels too!

French kissing
Coco set foot outside about ten days ago and is loving it. At first a bit timid, but soon got used to green grass under her paws again. She even brought us her first offering the other night - the tiniest mouse you ever did see. Thankfully her manners are good and she left it dead on the doormat outside, then proceeded to parade around like she had won the lottery! She has ditched the london stresses, us too and taken a few deep breaths of fresh pure country air, it's the stuff you can get high on. For now we've not made too many friends, the local man who serves pizza in the local supermarket carpark on Friday's and our neighbours dog - Sheepy, who seems to love us already!!

A very busy and hectic first couple of weeks getting stuck in literally. Our days are spent harvesting figs, walnuts, basil (which I have made into jars of homemade pesto), mowing, weeding and tidying the 5 acres and more at La Foret. Jon cleans the pool and sits on the tractor every so often too. Our first week of guests went very well and our culinary skills were put to the test.

I will post our menu's as and when we cook them and recipes too if you are interested. For now here a few things that we have cooked...

Rocket salad with  peaches
and roasted red peppers
Chicken breast wrapped in parma ham with sage
garlic mash and a sun-dried tomato salsa
Mixed berries with a hot white chocolate sauce