Tuesday, 29 April 2008

A longer outing

Lovely day today. With more rain forecast for tomorrow, we had to get out. I did a good stretching session yesterday and my legs were feeling much better so we decided a longer route was in order. With pooch in tow (or was it the pooch towing us?!) we headed out of the door and up the road to the Col de Peguère. We accomplished the 3.5km uphill section at a brisk walk without stopping and then headed up to the Cap de Carmil which we reached 1hr 24 mins after leaving Pissou... not bad going considering the 7.3kms included 800m of ascent. From there we had some steep downhill sections mixed with pleasant running through woodland and then sections of steady uphill gradient before we reached Roc Blanc above the zig zags that led down to the Col de Port. Lovely views from there as always, down the valley towards Tarascon and the Eastern Pyrenées. The Pic de la Journalade and Pic des 3 Seigneurs are looking pretty bare of snow now, thanks to the recent warm weather...
From there, down to the Col de Port where we picked up the 'ancien chemin de Boussenac' which was the old through route used by people heading from Tarascon over the Col and down to Massat. Along the way, we passed this lovely old iron cross embedded in a rock with the year 1772 engraved on it. ... evidence of people who used this path over 200 years ago. Quite thought provoking.

We eventually made it back to Pissou and my Garmin told me we had covered 22km with over 1000m of ascent. The pooch had probably covered more like 30km! He is now officially pooped! It was a lovely route and a good afternoon out.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


We had a gentle meander back to Pissou today, taking the minor roads across country, passing through the vineyards and the little villages of the Languedoc - it only took us 3 hrs from leaving Beziers on the coast! We had certainly timed the break well from a weather point of view, as rain is forecast here over the coming days. Although we have only been away for 5 days, the rain before we went followed by the hot sun of the past few days has really brought on the vegetation and everything is starting to look really lush and green. I love this this time of year with it's new growth and vibrant fresh colours.

Although it is good to have had a change of scenery, it was lovely to sit in the sun on the terrasse this afternoon and just hear birdsong and the brook burbling away down in the valley rather than dogs barking, workmen with compressors and traffic. Bliss :-)

Saturday, 26 April 2008


Had lunch with a couple of friends in the village of Colombiers on the banks of the Canal du Midi today (we actually rode through it on our bikes yesterday). It's a lovely little village at this time of year, but I can imagine it changes quite dramatically in the summer when the Canal gets overrun with tourists in their charter boats. It was quite a prolonged luncheon in the French tradition of things (although our friends are British!), so all we had time for this afternoon was more of this....pity ;-)
Back to Pissou tomorrow and I have to say I am looking forward to getting back to the peace and quiet!

Friday, 25 April 2008


The intention had been to get in some good distance on the roadies down here on the relative flatlands, but in actual fact that has proved rather difficult. The main roads are all far too busy to make cycling pleasurable and getting a good run without stopping on the minor roads is virtually impossible (navigation issues/closely packed villages etc). But still, we had a stop/start outing today and covered 70kms which took us down to the coast then back inland along poorly maintained backroads through the marshlands and through little villages, passing plenty of these;My legs also felt like lead which didn't help my enthusiasm, so I think a rigorous stretching regime is in order from now on to get me loosened up a bit!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

High activity...

..... not!

But I did get my hair cut at last ..... which was nice.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Holiday trail running

We had put off our planned break away because of the dire weather that the south of France has been experiencing over the past week or so. But yesterday it seemed to be clearing, so we took a cross country route down to the coast at Perpignan - it was great to see such a varied and in parts dramatic landscape (in particular around Quillan) that we had never visited before. We then headed along the coast avoiding the autoroute to Beziers and eventually down to the apartment that we had booked near the coast. Pissou this 'ain't! We are in quite a built up environment with the sound of traffic and whining mopeds in the background. Still, this is just a base from which we intend to explore the area in the course of the next 4 days.

Today, was our first exploration up towards the Montagnes Noires to St-Pons-de-Thaumière from where we headed out for a 16km run (475m of ascent) along, up and down undulating forest tracks, over Mediterranean heathland and through river-scoured valleys. It is quite a different landscape but quite beautiful and wild in its own way.

The running was excellent and much easier than what we are used to around Pissou. We spotted some beautiful flowers along the way which included a wild tulip....

... and beautiful irises which were too far from any houses to be cultivatedIt was a good run and nice to have a change of scenery. Some oysters from Bouzigues (just up the coast) and some small red mullet for dinner tonight.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Mountain weather

'Particulier', that's what it is. I simply don't know what to do with my washing! Woke up this morning to clear blue skies - great, get the washing in the machine! An hour and a half later, go to put the washing on the line but hang on, where has the sun gone? The sky had completely clouded over and 10 minutes later, it was raining. This afternoon, I notice the sun streaming in through the windows, look outside and the sky has pretty much cleared, so out goes the washing in lovely warm sunshine. Half an hour later, I notice it has gone very very dark - a glance outside and I see a black sky and hear the rumble of thunder. A storm has blown in at an amazing speed and then the heavens open, but not before a quick dash to the washing line to collect the sheets! It will probably be clear again in 10 minutes - you can't beat a bit of variety.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

VTT (mountain bike) outing

Now, it is months since our mountain bikes last saw the light of day. Since I last rode mine, Andy has fitted it with a new front derailleur, bottom bracket, cranks and chain, so it was about time I tested out the new set up!

I wanted to explore somewhere we had not been before. We spotted a route in the VTT Ariege book which took us up from Castet d''Aleu to the Col d'Ayens and then along a route forestiere for several kilometres before heading back down a zig-zagging track/road and back to Castet.

It didn't start out well, when I discovered that my front hydraulic disc brake was jammed on. I bit of fiddling about with the hydraulic fluid reservoir seemed to release it thank goodness, so we were good to go. But within a very short while, I realised that my front derailleur was not changing - a closer inspection revealed that the cable attached to the derailleur was in fact NOT attached to it! Again, more fiddling and eventually we were off. The route was lovely, taking us up quiet roads and tracks above Castet with amazing views of Mont Valier and the high mountains. It was a steady climb up to the Col d'Ayens where we sat and had a butty and admired the view with the clouds building on the tops. Then on to the proper piste forestiere track which involved more gentle climbing before the gradient eased and we had some good steady riding which was fun. Then the descent began which was even more fun... until the bit where we were obliged to follow a steep, narrow footpath which was a definite get off and walk jobby! Fortunately, that only lasted a couple of hundred metres and then we were back on good track/road again for a quick descent back down to the D618 and a blast back to Castet.

So a good outing - 24kms with 700m of climbing. We were out for approx 2hrs 30 mins. One thing that I realised today is that I enjoy hill climbing much more on my roadie than I do on my mountain bike. I just didn't seem to be able to find a comfortable gear on my MB and it didn't help that I was getting gear slippage on my lower gears either. Reckon the bike needs a good servicing before the next outing.... that may help.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Stormy weather

We were supposed to be heading down to the Med coast today for a few days away, but the south (including our area) is experiencing stormy weather this weekend, with strong gusts and squally showers predominating. These are interspersed with calm, bright spells of warm sunshine, so it is all very bizarre! We will stay put until after the weekend when hopefully there will be a return to springlike weather and we will be able to get in some good long distance rides on the roadies on the relative flatlands of the coastal area.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Jiggety jog

It was 'fresh' this morning, but as the day progressed the temperatures rose until this evening at 20.00 hrs it was 16 degrees C! Anyway, that is by the by .... it was nice enough after lunch for us to have a bit of a run through the woods to Eycheboul.... ....and then along lovely paths down to the road, across the river and along a riverside/woodland path crossing ancient wooden bridges before heading up steep, steep paths to eventually reach the Gite de Liers from where the lack of snow up at 1900m (Pic de la Journalade) was evident

It was a lovely run back down and the proliferation of woodland flowers over the past few days is a sight to behold .... anemones, alpine strawberries, violas, periwinkles, euphorbias and loads more. It is quite beautiful, seeing the flora and faune coming to life as Spring makes itself known.

Monday, 14 April 2008


The stormy weather of the last 24 hrs appears to be clearing

Looking forward to more sun tomorrow :-)

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Two cols in one day - woo-hoo!

Lovely day today, so Andy and I set out from Pissou on our roadies with the intention of bagging both the Col de Saraillé above Massat and also Col de Latrappe above Aulus. It was my first outing on my 2nd new saddle and I was really hoping it was not going to give me any bother. We reached the Col de Saraillé and I thought that with a couple of minor adjustments/fine tuning I would have it about spot on. My riding position and comfort on the descent down to Ercé felt much better, so on we went to Aulus where we stopped to fill up with water before tackling Now, we have done Latrappe before from the Aulus side, but that was after only having ridden from Ercé, 10kms down the road! This time, we had already covered 32kms and gone up one Col, so how much energy would be in our legs, that was the question.

The answer was 'enough'! We made it in one steady push, only 5kms but with 370m of ascent. A lovely fast descent (I touched 60 kph in places!) down into the Ustou Valley followed although we did seem to be battling 10-15 kph headwinds most of the way down which we could have done without. On arriving at Seix, we decided that rather then head back over to Massat via the Col de Saraillé from Oust (another steep, fairly sustained climb) we would take the easier but longer option (26kms to be precise) of heading back up the D618. We were both pretty tired by the time we reached Massat so had a brief break in the square before the final push back up the hill to Pissou. It had been our longest outing yet, 80kms with 1067m of ascent in 4 hrs. A good ride.

Saturday, 12 April 2008


St Girons market this morning, where I acquired some more herb plants, strawberry plants, chilli plants and lettuces. Hopefully this year we will be able to enjoy some homegrown produce!

It was lovely weather this morning, but it was due to deteriorate this afternoon, so I got out with the pooch after lunch for a bit of a walk/jog/run thing. I headed from Pissou, through the woods to Eycherboul and then down to the road and left up the Canadelles marked footpath. However, a short way along, I noticed a footpath sign for the Gite de Liers which is high up on the hillside, further up the valley. I was keen to link up some more circuits, so followed the good, waymarked path up through lovely woodland, past old 'granges' and eventually emerged onto a footpath which afforded superb views back down the valley to Massat in one direction and up to the snow-covered Col de la Pourtenelle and Pic des Trois Seigneurs in the other. Damn, I hadn't brought my camera! I reached the Gite from where I knew of an unmarked footpath which would take me back down to the start of the Canadelles footpath, countouring the hillside through the woodland. From there, back up to Eycherboul and back through the woodland to Pissou. It was a lovely outing, not overly long, but very pleasant and with the potential to extend the route beyond the Gite de Liers and further up the valley towards the higher hills in the future. Now that will be a nice outing!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Climbing at Calamès

With poor weather moving in over the next day or so, we decided to get out today for some more climbing action. We headed over to Bedeilhac and went up to Calamès, which is a fantastic south facing limestone outcrop that we have visited before but at which we have not yet climbed. There were some beautiful woodland flowers on the way in which included an amazing fritillaria pyrenaica.... and an orchis militaria which I had not seen before.It is a steep, scrambly walk-in, much of it on loose scree which was testing, but the limestone at the top and the view are worth the effort. We headed straight for the Papy sector which, on paper, had some nice 5a routes which I was keen to try. However, it turned out that the bolts were, er, sportingly spaced! I just did not have my 'leading' head on today and felt very unconfident on the rock, which was disappointing, so I backed off and let Andy have a bash at the route - fortunately he got up it and agreed that the bolting could have been better done to add a greater degree of safety to the route. But still, we did a few more routes (one of which I successfully led on another sector) and had a few hours in the sun in an amazing setting - it felt just like being on holiday and reminded me of past climbing trips to Costa Daurada and Costa Blanca in Spain! We got back down to the car just as the threatened rain started to fall. Good timing.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

A bit of a run

My exercise over the last couple of days has consisted of some bramble clearing next to the chemin just up from the house and that has been about it. So today, with fine weather still with us, I headed out with the pooch to do the Caougnous/Peguere/Route Forestiere/Espies circuit which I really enjoy. I was feeling strong from the outset so decided to see just how quickly I could do the 12.4km circuit which includes approx 400m of ascent. I ran as much of the road up to the Col de Peguere as I could and then legged it along the route forestiere and back down the hill through the woods using the ages old 'chemin creux' to Espies and then cross country back home. I made it in 1 hr 44 mins which was nearly 15 mins quicker than the last time I did that route at the end of March. That'll do me :-)

I am hoping my new bike saddle is going to turn up in the next few days so I can get back on the roadie for some more Col action. Let's hope the weather doesn't deteriorate.

Saturday, 5 April 2008


I was joined by Lee today for a trip on the roadies up to the Etang de Lers. I had not yet done the 13km ride with 700m of ascent up to the Etang (from Massat) without a rest, as it contains some fairly stiff sections which in the past have left me gasping for breath. I was determined to make this ride the one where I could push on up to the top in one go. It was only Lee's second outing on his roadie, so I was quietly confident that he wasn't going to give me a beasting!

To my surprise, I DID make it to the Etang without a pause and even had some energy left in my legs and my lungs when we reached the top. The view back down the valley made the exertion worthwhile.
Lee was optimistic that we could push on up to the Col d'Agnes and drop down into Aulus. However, last week's snow on the road prevented us from proceeding any further, which was disappointing. Still, I am sure there will be plenty of time and opportunity later in the year for such shenanigans!

After a quick buttie and stretch of the legs, we enjoyed a fast (reaching 53 kph at one point!), fun descent back down into Massat where we had a swift half outside the Globe cafe before I headed back up to Pissou. It was a good outing and I am pleased I can now tick that one off my list! More please!

The rest of the day was spent sunbathing on the terrasse in the unseasonably warm temperatures :-)

Friday, 4 April 2008

The good and the bad

Let's start off with the bad, shall we? The dog. Anybody want a dog? Free to good home! He woke us up far too early this morning by whining to be let out, which usually means he needs to relieve himself. Sure enough, he shot up the hill like a rocket. I left him to it and went back to bed (he always let's us know when he wants to be let back in). I must have dozed off, as I was awoken an hour and a half later by him barking outside. He had returned but was absolutely coated in cow manure. He stank. Andy reminded him in his own way that that was not a good thing to have done and then we set about cleaning him down. That pooch was in the dog house. Andy reckons he was after a shag from the the unspayed bitch up the hill. Either way, that is no excuse for his behaviour!

Now for the good...... Climbing! Beautiful day today. So we headed over to a limestone outcrop which is over the Col de Port, above Rabat les 3 Seigneurs. It was a stiff, uphill walk-in which took 30 mins, but it was worth it. We had the place to ourselves. The rock was pristine and the weather perfect. The view down to Tarascon from the top of one of the routes was amazing. It was good to get my leading head on and we both enjoyed the amazing rock
The highlight for me was leading a 32m long 5a. More please!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

A bit of a run

While Andy christened the turbo trainer in the barn, I went for a run with the pooch and did a good, (relatively) fast 8.5km with 250m of ascent. It was warm and nice to be out stretching my legs! The ground is very wet with several footpaths temporarily transformed into streams thanks to the recent snow melt and rain. But good fun all the same.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


We had torrential rain during the night, so this morning nothing remains of the snow here at Pissou 826m. Today, clear skies and temperatures in the mid teens are helping to dry out the ground which has been saturated. It is into the 20s in the sun and it looks like things will be stable for the next few days, so some outdoor action is imminent!