Sunday, 31 October 2010

We're in!

It's been a full-on kind of day. First thing, more work on Sadie followed by a brief interlude for me to 'pop down' to Tarascon for H to cut my hair, followed by the arrival of the wet weather which generated a spontaneous, frenzied packing and car-loading mission and a drive to Fougax. We were due to move in tomorrow but having secured the keys yesterday and being without broadband at home due to Free terminating our contract 2 days early (Gawd bless 'em!), today was as good a time as any. We have had the Godin woodburner going full blast since we arrived which has succeeded in removing that 'empty house' chill and it is all now snug and toasty. The weather is dire, but regardless, I will be donning my waterproofs tomorrow, stepping out of the door and starting to explore the myriad tracks & trails around us. How exciting!

Friday, 29 October 2010


Well, it's downright bonkers, so it is! I opened the door this morning, bracing myself in anticipation of the chilly air to which I have become accustomed recently. Instead, I was greeted by a mild, a very mild waft of air as I let the dog out. During the day it just got warmer - shorts and T-shirt weather at the end of October??! What's that all about then?! The warm air has been accompanied by strong gusts of wind at times and some fantastic cloud formations this eveningWe have been doing more work on Sadie today. The washbasin is now adorned with the very natty foldaway tap unit, the hot and cold water pipes are attached and the waste pipe likewise. Everything is very neatly and very firmly fixed within the frame of the bathroom wallThe frame for the front is also now slotted into place, but will not be fixed until the waterproof pannelling is attached
Tomorrow, we are heading down to Fougax with a load of wood and to get the internet set up ready for our moving in on Monday. Hopefully there will be no hiccups!

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Phew no. 1) It has been 17 degrees in the shade and into the mid 20s in the sun today, clear blue sky, fantastic autumnal weather. Phew no. 2) It's been a tad non-stop for the past few days hence my slight lack of blogging!

Sunday/Monday, the spell of cold, wintery weather did indeed land on us, but fortunately the snow held off and we were just treated to sleety showers which wasn't altogether pleasant. But it quickly passed, clearer skies returned and on Tuesday, we headed 'over the other side' in Sadie to pick up some construction timber for the cupboards and bathroom structures, taking advantage of the improved weather to get in a ride on the roadies with 'the gang'. Pat, however, was paying the price for doing an intense circuit training programme with Kev the night before and had very tired legs, which was a shame, as it was a lovely undulating circuit of just over 76kms and 800m of ascent, with some lovely views towards Mont d'OlmesI was feeling strong and really enjoyed the riding, but it had been really hard to choose the right kit to wear, as there was a sharp, nippy wind and the general air temperature was only into the low teens. The sun, however, was really warm and I quickly realised that neoprene overboots were in fact far too toasty for the conditions! Stats on the usual site.

Yesterday and today have once again seen us giving Sadie our undivided attention. The over-cab storage cupboard is now done....
and today, we have done a dry fit of the wet-room (hah, do you like what I did there?!!).We have a slight spanner in the works in that, due to a misunderstanding, we have bought the wrong Thetford toilet. The cassette cannot in fact be changed from the current right (as you look at it) opening, to a left opening as we had been led to believe, and we can't simply swap the bathroom layout because of issues with the door opening, so a new toilet will have to be ordered and the old one flogged on eBay next time we are back in the UK. The fold-away washbasin that we have mounted above the toilet, however, is a success. The high density/impact 1mm thick polystyrene sheets that we have ordered will clad the interior of the cubicle to give a waterproof finish.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Cracking on with cracking on

It is a week until we move down to Fougax for the winter. Weeks pass quickly in these parts and there is much to do in the coming one. The weather has been gloriously balmy (up to 20 degrees) over the past 2 days and the urge to get out on the roadies has been a strong one. But the focus of our attention has to be Sadie, as we struggle to make as much progress on her transformation as possible whilst we are still here with our pile of plywood, circular saw, table saw and miscellaneous other tools and bits of equipment that we are loathe to transport down to our new abode. But sure and definite progress is being made as this photo testifiesWith the bed boxes and the back panels now fixed into place, the windowframes boxed out and the rear doors insulated and ply-pannelled, she is starting to feel like a campervan for the first time...... which is really quite exciting! Work on the construction of the shower/toilet cubicle, on the kitchen units and the overhead cupboards cannot start until we get hold of more timber for the frames, so that will be next week's big push.

We are due for a spell of much colder weather early in the coming week and there are even rumours of snow down to 1100m. I wonder if it will materialise?

Friday, 22 October 2010

All fixed

So I paid the price for scrumping plums back in September by breaking a tooth on a stone. But it WAS a bloody delicious plum! However, it has resulted in 6 dental appointments in the course of which a) the old mercury filling was drilled out along with the nerve b) the tooth was filed back to the basic 'sound' structure and finally c) a crown was And by 'eck, he has done a good job has our Joel (we're on first name terms now, my dentist and moi). I am relieved that the treatment has finally come to an end but my bank balance cannot concur. Despite having 'top-up' insurance with a 'mutuelle', I still stand to fork out over €400. Ouch.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Sun and Sadie

The weather has perked up somewhat over the past couple of days - cold mornings but some wonderful warmth from the sun, particularly this afternoon. We have been working on the bed/seating boxes for Sadie and, yesterday afternoon, created the two basic boxes....
...which, after this afternoon's efforts, are now ready to fix into place with their hinged lids
The wheel arches are now framed and insulated so we shouldn't have any cold-spots in the back of the van. The gas box (the bespoke manufactured aluminium container which will contain the gas bottles), fits neatly into the rear right box .....which is a relief. Progress is being made. How luxurious to be able to fit what will be a king-size bed into a camper-van!

We managed to snatch a quick ride on the mountain bikes this morning, on the route forestière over the other side of the Col de Port. Only 8kms, but the fast blast back along the track made up for the silly section of 'get off n push' near the start. It's a lovely track which takes you to just below Pic de la Pic de la Journalade on good tracksI have a new saddle on my mountain bike which, after today's brief outing, feels like a great improvement on my old one which was a wide, gel-filled lady's saddle apparently 'built for comfort', but totally contrary to my actual sit-bone arrangement. My new saddle is much narrower and firmer and I am hoping will give me more comfort on longer rides, strange though that may sound. But, ladies, bigger is not necessarily better!!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


It's a great country - no, it really is. It has loads going for it and a quality of life envied by many. (or rather its general population ... although I may be generalising) really isn't doing itself any favours at the moment. The country's objection to the Sarkozy government's intention to increase the pensionable age to 62 from 60 has been making itself felt in no uncertain terms. Up (or down, depending on where you are) here in the sticks, we have, up until now, been blissfully unaffected by the issue. We filled up with diesel without any problem down in Foix on Saturday without any problem, whereas today many pumps are now empty and petrol station queues are common thanks to the ongoing blockade of the distribution depots in France. One has to wonder how long it will be before the majority of petrol stations will be 'dry'.

Today, France has been on 'general strike', which can mean many things. But Foix used the excuse to block off the main traffic thoroughfare through the town with a sit down 'protest' and to send militant idiots onto the streets and roads who were intent on 'getting across their message' in an incredibly confrontational manner which, quite frankly, did nothing for their cause. In fact, the woman who attempted to block our passage in the car was a hair's breadth from getting herself runover. The town was a mess of toilet roll and paper which some poor sod is now going to have to tidy up. If the protestors are hoping to get more people onside through their actions then I am afraid they are failing miserably.

Anyway, rant over. On a brighter note, it's been a beautiful autumnal day today with snow down to 1500mWe had a very enjoyable roadie outing with 'the gang' in beautiful, crips autumnal weather today. It was short, just 54kms, but with Pat, Fréd and I plus the boyz Andy, Kev and Cédric it was a very convivial outing, but still with plenty of chances for 'attaque!' as felt necessary ;-) Good fun! Stats on the usual site.

We head down to Fougax to our 'winter residence' (doesn't that sound grand!) in 2 weeks time and I am SO excited about the biking opportunities for the winter and about the possibility of having a more sociable time through the darker months. I am being very conscientious about my stretching and the legs are feeling better already, so I am looking forward to some walks/jogs on flatter terrain when we get down there. From there, I need to pick up my game, as I have my eye on the Citadelles again in April 2011 ;-)

Sunday, 17 October 2010


I made a late sowing of 'Fly Away' carrots in August. I had a spare patch of earth that I couldn't bear to see empty and it has produced some of the tastiest carrots that I have ever grown! I pulled the majority of the crop (around 2.5 kgs) for storage today and they are big, firm, untainted carrots that are now washed and dried and ready for stashing away for winter useWe're having a rough spell of weather at the moment - cold, wet and windy with a sharp dip in the temperatures. Indoor jobs time, methinks, and time to start planning for our relocation down to Fougax for the winter. Lots to do!

The legs are still very painful, but I am hoping that by Tuesday when the sun is forecast to make a return, I shall be fit for an outing on the bike.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

I spoke too soon

After yesterday evening's buoyant post about how good my legs felt after our walk, I now feel like deleting everything that I posted :-( I shall now be doing sod all in terms of exercise over the coming days as I am once again in a lot of discomfort. Frustrated and pissed off? Moi? Hell yeah. A glass or two of some of the lovely Languedoc-Roussillon Villages wine that I brought back the other day is however helping to ease the pain. Santé.

Friday, 15 October 2010

A funny old day

It has been a funny old day. We both woke up knackered despite not having done anything that could possibly warrant such a state. Could it be because we had been awoken by dogs barking plus a team of builders arriving next door at silly o'clock this morning? Ah yes, that could have something to do with it! We soon learnt that they were here to knock off the old render and apply good old 'crépi' to the exterior of our neighbour's property over the coming days. What a noise, what a mess, what a load of inconsiderate, thoughtless workers, mindlessly using the edge of our elevated rear terrasse decking to access our neighbour's wall with their hammers, drills and goodness knows what else. They were soon told to set up their own scaffolding or ladder and keep themselves off our property!

We had to get out and away from the noise and disruption. Fortunately it has been a wonderfully sunny, blue-skied day, so we headed up to the Col de Port where the autumn colours are coming into their ownWe took the path up in the direction of Pic d'Estibats but broke off left to the cabane d'EstibatsFrom there, we headed up in the direction of Sommet des Griets. I was taking it deliberately easy, very conscious of how my leg and bum muscles were operating, not wanting to end up in a crippled heap after spending some time on my feet. I have been doing the specific stretches that the osteo gave me the other day and my glutes do feel like they have been easing off but I wasn't going to do anything stupid to aggravate them so this was very much a walk rather than a run.

We proceeded on up to the Pic d'Estibats from where there are great views over towards Mont Valierand, on the descent, Mont Fourcat and Pic de Saint Barthelemy dominate the horizonWe were out for 2 hours and and the pooch was pooped after his first real 'outing' for quite some time. My legs, fortunately, feel great and with no adverse effects from the 560+m of ascent/descent and more stretching this evening will have also helped :-)

The workers were of course still at it when we got back, but we were in a better frame of mind having had some sun and exercise.

A little surprise this evening - I was getting the washing in from the airer on the terrasse when I felt a sting, a bite on my finger - a red ant possibly? No, there on the underside of the sheet was a small spider. I dashed indoors and grabbed a container and managed to trap it for later inspection, just in case it was poisonousInternet research has failed to identify it, but I am still alive and kicking with no funny symptoms, so it's bite must have been harmless, thank goodness.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Is it thieving?

I love this time of year. I love the apples, the pears, the plums, the quinces.... I love the sight of fruit tree branches bent almost to the ground with the weight of their harvest. But it breaks my heart to see such vast quantities of fruit fall to the ground and left to simply rot away, when I would love to give free rein to my squirrelling instinct and collect bags, crates, car loads of nature's bounty and transform it into jams, jellies, chutneys, pies, crumbles...... Yes, I know these trees all belong to somebody but surely if branches overhang the public highway and fruit falls into ditches, then the general public has every right to collect it? I have my eye on a quince tree right now and the fruit is reaching optimum ripeness - I fear I may not be able to harness my urge to go fill those bags for much longer!!

On another note, the colours are really starting to turn down here now, with the bracken finally turning that wonderful deep russet brown and the dull green leaves at last giving way to warmer shades of yellow, orange and red. Autumn really is a stunning time of year in the Ariege

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Time out

I have been away for a couple of days. I have mentioned in previous posts the increasingly severe problem that I am experiencing with the illiotibial band in my legs when I run even short distances on level, firm surfaces. After the last 'episode' which left me pretty much crippled for three days after a short run that I have done many times before, it was clear I was going to have to resort to seeing an 'expert' if I was ever going to be able to run properly again. Pat's timing was perfect. She needed to make an appointment to see her superb osteopath down near Perpignan again and asked whether I would like an appointment too. YES PLEASE!!!

It proved to be a very valuable 1 hour appointment (preceded by a very nice goat's cheese salad and glass of rosé - yum!) in which we established 1) I have no significant muscular imbalances and more importantly 2) the increasingly severe problems in the ITB tract are caused by overly tight gluteus medius muscles which can be resolved with some quite specific stretches, although it is going to take some weeks for it to all be released sufficiently for me to be free of any discomfort when I run. But at last I have grounds for optimism and can afford to get excited about the imminent prospect of running again!! Yay!

It's quite a trek down to Perpignan but fortunately the trip is made bearable by the fantastic Languedoc-Roussillon vineyards. We took this perfect opportunity to pop into Case de Pene near Maury on the way back to taste and stock up on some truely delicious wines. The wine racks are now full :-)

I stayed at Pat and Kev's overnight and with an improvement in the weather, Pat and I headed out for a roadie ride today which turned into a cracking outing of just under 80kms/1300m+ in 3 hrs 30 min. It was good to finally do the climb up to Montsegur from Belesta which was on my 'yet to do' ticklist. It was no pushover with the gradient ramping up in the final 3 or 4 kms but we reached the col just as the weather was starting to close in and the black clouds indicating that a downpour was imminent. After a brief stop to jacket-up and take a photo, we legged it back down to Lavelanet and from there back to Pat's. Although tired when we arrived back, the legs had done well and felt strong despite the undulating nature of the circuit which is all good news. Full stats on the usual site.Tomorrow, we have got an English couple coming to view the house. On the face of it, Pissou and they seem like a perfect match, but we will have to see how they feel after their visit. Keep fingers crossed for us!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A nasty turn

Well, it couldn't last, could it. We have the spent the past few days enjoying the warm, no, the hot autumnal sunshine. But overnight, the rain came. And this evening it is falling with increasing intensity. The parched ground, fortunately, is soaking it up greedily, so there is no need for me to dust off my ark-making handbook.... yet. However, if this carries on, it could be a different story in the morning!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Boing Boing!

The little bike shop in Saint-Girons, cent pour cent vélo, was recently taken over by Frédéric Moncassin, who just happens to have been a professional road cyclist in the 1990s and even won 2 stages of the Tour de France in 1996. He is a bit good! But I digress. The point of this post is that it was his hands that fitted the new headset and Marzocchi Bomber forks on my mountain bike. Thinking about it, it's a good job I didn't know about his background before walking in there today otherwise I could have been a tad in awe! And he gave me some great advice when I picked his brains about my vague idea of buying a Cannondale Synapse carbon roadie which he just happens to stock. But I digress.... again. The point of this post is my mountain bike. Yes, my VTT with spangly new shockers that go boing when I go over bumps. Shockers that actually take the shock much to the gratitude of my arms which have been serving that purpose since, well, since forever. But anyway, today's ride, yes, after a bit of car shuffling, we managed to complete the final 2 stages of the Trans-Ariege mountain bike route this afternoon in 30 degree heat (this IS early October, isn't it?!) which included some great little sections that really tested my new set up and which had me emitting involuntary woops and shrieks as the shockers did their work and as the cows looked on in bemusement. Oh .... what.... fun!!! What a difference! Thank you Andy for my birthday pressie and thank you thank you Freddy Moncassin for fitting them for me.But back to the route - it was another cheeky little number with some really quite spiteful steep bits (up to 25%) which provided a challenge, but nothing insurmountable. It turned in at a few metres shy of 30kms and 400m ish of ascent. Good stuff.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

New roadie explorations

It was chilly this morning, just 10 degrees, but the sky was of that clear blue that promised warmth to come. We took heed. After all, who knows how many such days are yet to come this autumn (Update! Full on sun and 25 degrees now forecast for the coming 3 days! Hurrah!).

So we headed down to Saint Girons where I dropped off my mountain bike for the new forks and headset to be fitted. And then we jumped on the roadies to do a circuit that has been on my mind for a while. We dabbled with the first part of it at the end of June, but this time I wanted to take it further. By midday, the sun's warmth was starting to make itself known but in the shade it was still mighty chilly. We rode from Saint Girons up to Audressein and then up to the Col du Portet d'Aspet which was something of an effort, as indeed it was last time. You know when you go to change down, hunting that extra gear but it just isn't there, that's it, you've got the lot mate?! You are convinced, but convinced I tell you, that your brakes are sticking! It was one of those. So you dig deeper and somehow your legs turn just enough to keep the forwards and upwards motion and then, there it is, yes, you are at the Col. Yes!

After that it was new territory and, more importantly, it was all downhill. Or so I thought. Nope. Wrong! After the initial fast and, in parts, steep descent from the Col to the town of Aspet, this circuit dared to throw in a series of cheeky little 'ups' which I hadn't foreseen and which continued to test the legs when they just wanted to spin away in a punter gear whilst I just admired the views;
But we eventually dropped back down to the River Salat that runs down from Saint Girons from where we still had 23kms to ride, so I shoved some more fuel down and kept pedalling away although my legs were starting to argue about the demands that I was making of them. We eventually made it back to Saint Girons after 87kms/1200m+/3 hrs 43 of riding. It had been a cracking ride, sustained in effort but very rewarding and in beautiful weather with stunning scenery. My legs are tired, which is perfectly normal, but I MUST do some stretching if I am to continue to demand sustained levels of effort from my body. I have an appointment with an osteopath next week and am hoping to come away with a constructive stretching and exercise regime that will loosen up my tight bits and strengthen the not so strong bits and basically enable me to start running again and to progress even more with my cycling. It will be interesting to see what he has to say, that's for sure.

Monday, 4 October 2010


Especially for mum - this is the little house where we will be spending the coming winter
Not a bad little spot, set back from a little village at 500m alt, with Plateau de Sault and its nordic skiing 15 mins up the road, the Mont d'Olmes ski centre 25 mins away, more road biking and mountain biking from the door than you can shake a stick at and walks/runs galore. Excited? Moi?!

More work on Sadie yesterday, with her rear bumper and bodywork now sorted. From thisto this after rust this with the new bumper fitted. The kink is the natural shape of the rear of the vehicle, by the way
She's looking a tad smarter, n'est-ce pas?

Today, I have mostly been making these, according to a Larousse recipe, so they really are authentically French!
It's the first time I have made crême patissière and I am really pleased with how it turned out - lovely flavour, lovely consistency and the autumn-fruiting raspberries that I have grown from canes brought over from mum's garden last year are just delicious.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Mountain bike black

Well, my new headset and forks arrived on Thursday, but I have to curb my excitement as it is going to be Monday/Tuesday before a professional with the right tools is able to actually fit for them for me. Pity, because I could really have done with my new set-up today as we tackled a longish black circuit from Varilhes in wonderfully warm (22 degrees) autumn weather. The circuit included everything from repeated sections of sustained ascent on a mixture of terrain, to technical steep single track descents to undulating woodland paths with the added bonus of uprooted trees blocking the path to keep us on our toes. Hmm, that was fun. The lack of route signage made navigating somewhat tricky in places too but that all adds to the adventure!

The great thing about riding from the plain up onto the 'Plantaurel' as the spine of hills that runs from near Saint Girons to Varilhes is called, is the contrasting views. To the right, we had views back down onto the plain with Pamiers in the distancewhilst to the left, Mont Fourcat and Pic de Saint Barthelemy could be seen
and straight ahead, Mont Valier is visible. Beautiful
It was a challenging circuit as the ascent kept on coming but my goodness, there were some fun sections of descent to make up for it! I am loving the mountain bike at the moment and am riding with more confidence, tackling sections that before I would have dismounted for. And my legs are feeling fantastic after today's ride which came in at 30kms with 800m of ascent. Full stats on the usual site