Friday, 27 February 2009


We have been enjoying some truely spring-like temperatures over the past few days. Today, it has reached 16 degrees in the shade and it is wonderfully warm, even hot in the sun. We have seen some beautiful bright yellow butterflies around Pissou and the spring flowers are also coming out. The bulbs that I planted with mum back in the autumn are coming along a treat and the irises are already in flower - lovely!

After spending the morning stripping, sanding and priming the 2nd porte-fenetre in the sun on the terrasse, I took the bike for a short spin up towards the Etang de l'Hers. It may be hot in the sun, but there are sections of the road up there where the sun's rays cannot yet reach and the difference in temperature was dramatic. There is still a fair bit of snow on the ground above 1000m but I would imagine much of it is now turning to slushsville in these spring-like conditionsThe weather is set to change Sunday night/Monday. I will be back in the UK then for a week where I understand a spell of poor weather is also forecast! Oh well, at least I won't be missing out on any sunshine.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Not meaning to gloat, but .....

What I didn't mention in my last post is that we popped into Mirande (I think) on our way back from the cyclosportive on Monday morning to check out the market there. From the back of his van, a local wine grower was dispensing red, white and rosé wine from tanks in the back of his van. He graciously filled 2 x 2 ltr water bottles for me, one with his 2006 red wine and the other with his rosé. The total price for the 4 litres was €4.80..... yes just €4.80 I wasn't expecting anything fantastic at that price, to be honest. But wow. I mean.... WOW!! The rosé is one of the lightest, softest, fruitiest rosés that I have ever tasted. The red is fruity, smooth with gentle tannins and very very quaffable. So, I don't mean to gloat, but, well the equivalent of over 5 bottles of truely delicious wine for under €1.00 a bottle ... cor! :-D Only problem is, that once the 2 ltr bottle is opened the wine starts to deteriorate, so there really is nothing for it but to enjoy it while fresh!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Oh yes

Well, on arriving in Ju Belloc in the Gers Dept with P&K for the cyclo-sportive yesterday, I promptly wondered what on earth I was doing there! The car park was full of fit, skinny, serious-looking lycra-clad blokes putting together their precious and very very expensive full carbon racing stallions. Boy, did I feel out of place with my cheepy cheepo little filly. However, after bluntly reminding myself that I was there for a laugh and to simply get round the 70+km course, I started to relax and I commenced the 'race' at my own pace, content at least not to be right at the back of the field.

Somebody who shall remain nameless had assured me the course was 'flat'. Does this profile look flat to you?! It actually worked out (according to my Garmin) at 665m of ascent!But it went well, my bike was working well and my legs were feeling strong. I rode the majority of the race on my own, just occasionally catching up with a small group of riders, overtaking them and then concentrating my efforts on reeling in the next person in my sights. I think I probably overtook a dozen people in all. The weather was perfect, the course varied and I was chuffed to bits to complete the 77.5kms in a very respectable 2 hrs 59 mins, reaching a max speed of 60kph. I discovered later that I was the 2nd lady home in my age category .... the fact that there were only the 2 of us in our age group somehow seems irrelevant! I had had a grand day out and my trophy is on the mantlepiece.
Pat and Kev had a tougher time on the 110km circuit with Kev somehow missing the turn off for the additional loop which was just 5kms from the end of the 70+km route. Being the trooper that he is, he turned round at the finish, retraced his steps and then picked up the signs for the additional 40km which he eventually completed!

We stayed with their friends Jane and Pete in the area last night and enjoyed a hearty chilli, followed by plum crumble, washed down with some 'muscle relaxant' red wine. It had been an all round excellent outing and I will not be approaching future cyclosportives with the same fear and trepidation as I did my first!

Saturday, 21 February 2009


I met up with Lee and David at Guzet today for a morning's skiing. After finding my ski legs again and getting some hot technique tips from Lee, we headed over to the Freychet sector of the resort where I would tackle my first ever black run. We took the top lift from where the only way down was black. I managed a weak smile as I tried not to let nerves get the better of me. I knew I could do it, so positive thinking was the way forward. The snow was in excellent condition, the runs had been pisted so there was not a better time to break into the blacks. I skiied the top half well, making a conscious effort not to allow the steepness to be an issue but concentrating on my technique and my turns instead. But ahead of me was a very nervous bloke, sliding his way tentatively down the slope. I lost my concentration along with my balance and ended up on the floor with a faceful of powder as I slid a good few metres down the slope. But no damage done and I went on to complete the run without further incident. There followed a couple of excellent, uneventful descents of a shorter black run (the pisted slope on the left of the photo below) which boosted my confidence
With the cyclo sportive tomorrow, I was keen not to overdo it today, so left the boys at lunchtime and headed home. I still need to work on my technique but at least I know that I can ski black runs now, which is progress indeed.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The next project

Ever since we moved in to Pissou, a big bug bear has been the fact that the previous occupants had bricked up half of the doorway in the bedroom that used to lead out to the rear of the house and stuck a silly little double-glazed window in the upper half. We have no idea why. It just does not suit the house in any respect and it also closed an important means of access.
The rear of the house sees some wonderful evening sun in the summer, but at the moment it is wasted. So we have a plan to create a terrace area at the back, which is accessible from the 1st floor and for this we will need to open up the doorway again. We picked up a couple of lovely, bargain 'porte-fenetre' from a 'Troc' shop (2nd hand goods and materials) today which fit the space perfectly.I have started stripping them down to bare wood and intend to stain them in due course. We now need to find the right hard wood to make the frame and then we can restore the space back to the purpose for which it was created :-)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Final tweaking

The cyclo-sportive is on Sunday. I moved my saddle 5mm back yesterday to see if that would alleviate the discomfort that I experienced on my ride last Sunday, otherwise I could see me retiring from the race. Andy and I had a burst up to Aulus and back (40km) today to check that the new position was a positive move. I am pleased to report that the riding position is much more effective and the discomfort is now negligeable! Provided I keep myself properly fuelled on Sunday, there is no reason why I shouldn't complete the 74kms. Pat, Kev and I are staying with friends of theirs in the area on Sunday with the promise of an excellent local market on Monday morning. Should be fun. Here's hoping for good weather. I will report back!

Monday, 16 February 2009

House work

Following on from my mould clearing exertions of a few days ago, we are now making great progress on tidying up that side of the bedroom. The walls are cleaned up and painted with bathroom paint which should hopefully prevent further mould from developing, the spots of mould that were evident on the unpainted ceiling boards have been cleaned off and the bare boards and joists primed ready for the final coat of paint. Andy has successfully mounted two nice new subtle spot lights to light up that side of the room, the wiring amazingly well 'hidden' unlike the previous owners' efforts which were anything but subtle! Today (his birthday!), he has been battling with wiring in a light on the stairs which is a massive improvement on the cheapy jobby that was there before. Photos to follow of the bedroom once we have finished the work.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Blue is back

Yes, grey has been chased away and blue has taken its place! It is wonderful to have clear skies again. I decided an outing on the roadie was called for, as I am supposed to be doing a cyclosportive up in the Gers department with P&K next weekend but I really don't know if I am bike fit enough. This would be my last opportunity to decide whether or not to send in my entry.

I headed down to St Girons and parked up in Saint Lizier. The route I had in mind was a 70km circuit with 710m of ascent. It took me along lovely little back roads through charming little villages where people were going about their Sunday business, with some fantastic views of Mont Valier and other Couserans peaks. I passed the Chateau de Prat Bonrepauxthe old bastide de Monjoie and the cité de Saint Lizier... you could call it something of a cultural outing although I was unable to stop long enough to really appreciate it!

It was an immensely undulating circuit but with no major ascents. In a way, I think it was far harder than doing one long slog up a col where you select granny gear and just keep the pedals turning. The hills kept on coming right up until the final few kilometers, by which time I was pooped. However, the outing had done me good and I reckon I have nothing to lose by entering the sportive next weekend. It will be 78kms but with less ascent... I reckon it will be good experience and good fun too!

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Since Wednesday's fine dump of snow, the antipicated high has not materialised which means that the clear blue skies and low temperatures are not yet with us. Instead, we have had a mainly cloud-ridden sky (the odd little patch of blue has peeped through very occasionally just to tease us) and it has been grey and damp with mild temperatures. The snow at our level is turning to mush and that is a lot of mush! However, the meteo is promising us soleil on Monday and for the early part of the week - I am waiting in anticipation!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Snowed in

It has been snowing solidly since yesterday evening. The chasse-neige came along our road at about 07.30 this morning, but the snow is falling so thick and fast that he needs to come by again if we are to get the car out! We have probably 20cms on the ground so far.The dog is however thoroughly enjoying the conditions...and is becoming quite an expert snowball catcher!It really is quite beautiful here when it snows

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Snow was forecast to move in this afternoon with similar conditions through to the weekend. Today would be my last chance to get out for a run for a few days, so I headed down to meet up with Pat for a circular route from her house. It was wet underfoot, very wet... in fact it was serious mudsville in many places which made the going 'interesting'.However, we were able to test ourselves on some good, drier uphill sections on which we were able to keep running which is a good indication of our improved fitness levels. Considering the conditions underfoot, I was please to complete the 15.3kms with 400m of ascent in 2 hrs. Just as I was leaving their house, the conditions worsened and I was treated to horizontal sleet as I headed back to Foix. I was only just able to make it back over the Col de Port in time before the settling snow made it impassable. It was a serious blizzard up there and I would not have liked to have been stranded! We are in for a snowy, windy few days, but the forecast is for clearer weather at the weekend.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Time for a change

This blog is too full of lovely scenic photos and other jolly happenings in the Pissou world. It really cannot continue in that vein. I mean, I am really not giving people a very balanced picture of life here, am I. So here, this is what I have been up to today
We knew we had a little bit of a damp problem on the back wall of the bedroom, but until we took the bookcases out, we didn't appreciate the extent of it.Nice! After spraying with a bleach solution, I successfully scraped off most of the mould along with the top layer of plaster. We are now trying to dry out the room with the aid of a dehumidifier and will sand down the wall, size it and then paint with bathroom paint when it has been properly prepared. Not the most pleasant of jobs, it has to be said, but it has to be done.

Friday, 6 February 2009

In the nick of time

Looking at the forecast for the coming week, it was clear that our wood supplies would be severely challenged if we did not make an effort today to fill up the woodshed. Fortunately, I found some excellent quality dead trees just off our chemin which would provide ready-seasoned, dense, good-sized logs for the wood burner. Within 3 hours we had felled and sectioned them, loaded up the car and brought them back to the house, chainsawed them into useable chunks and stashed them in the woodshed. The rain started just as the last logs were being put away. Temperatures have now dropped and the rain has turned to snow and is settling fast. More is forecast for tomorrow, so I am relieved that we were able to get the wood in in time.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Clear blue skies and warm sun today - wonderful! We spent the afternoon skiing at Guzet where the conditions were perfect.

Monday, 2 February 2009

It just isn't possible any more :-(

I wish it was. But I am not 25 any more.... or even 35 for that matter. No, my body is not allowing me to forget that I crossed the '40' threshold more than just a couple of years ago. No longer can I get away with having a good run or a bike ride or a ski session without any after-effects. After my last run with Andy and Kev I felt that everything just seized up and my short ride on the roadie yesterday left me tired and stiff. It took a good 30 minutes of concerted stretching yesterday evening for my poor body to loosen up a bit. This morning, I had another 30 minute stretching session before heading over to Pat and Kev's for a run. I also filled my Camelbak with rocket fuel (SIS 'Go' mix!) and guess what, my body responded to the tender loving care that I was lavishing on it. 14.5kms/300m of ascent/1 hr 48 mins of pretty much constant running on footpaths and tracks around Laroque d'Olmes and I could have carried on! I am not falling to bits after all, it IS possible to do all these sports/activities that I want to do. If paying heed to the needs of my ageing muscles and bones is a pre-requisite for me to succeed, then what else is a girl to do! :-)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Before the weather turns ....

The weather at the moment is dry, fine and positively springlike but with more poor weather moving in imminently, I felt compelled to give the roadie an airing today. It was only to be a short run as it has been a few weeks since I last sat in the saddle. So from Massat, down the D618 to the roundabout, along to Oust and then Ercé before the ride up to Cominac, the Col de Saraillé and then the descent back down to Massat. As I gained Cominac, the approaching weather front was evident!

It was not a fast run by any means, but a good 45kms and 2 hours out in relatively dry conditions. Must do more!