Saturday, 26 May 2012

Bikey bikey

It has been a mixed bag here weather-wise. A week ago we had howling gales, rain and low temperatures which resulted in snow down to 1300m - thoroughly unpleasant. Mid May and we had the woodburner lit which is just bonkers. But that's Spring in the Pyrenees for you. It is unpredictable at best. Fortunately we got out for a cracking mountain bike ride the day before the weather worsened and covered 30km on a fantastically varied circuit from the house which included technical woodland single track, hardpacked tracks and short sections of tarmac. For the first time in quite a long while I actually felt like I had some energy and was hungry for the exercise. A great feeling! The ride was only slightly marred by Andy's chain breaking just as the storm was about to hit! All good fun.
The road bike has also seen some action with a couple of good 70km rides from the house, the last one on Thursday in weather more befitting the month of May (clear blue skies, temperatures into the mid to high 20s....) which involved 70kms/1000m+ from here near Aspet over the Col des Arès to the Barousse Valley then up to Mauleon-Barousse, down to Barbazan and back through the Comminges. Everything was working well and the knee played the game which was something of a relief. The same can't be said when I attempt to run unfortunately. The twinge on the lateral side of my right knee starts as soon as I attempt to run downhill which is, both metaphorically and literally, a pain. I have however been working hard on exercises to fire up the glutes which I think are paying off. The leg generally feels under less tension now and the ITB pain in particular seems to be lessening. I am going to head out for a test run tomorrow and see how it all feels in practise. Cross your fingers for me!

Lastly, the bird sighting of the week is a red-backed shrike which is another stunning bird that I have never seen before! It is on the red list in the UK. Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


This area is amazing. The variety of bird life is truely stunning and continues to surprise me. Today when we were out walking locally we spotted two bee-eaters sitting on an overhead cable. I have never seen such beautiful birds. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia;
Slightly later on as we were walking back to the car we spotted a short-toed eagle circling overhead, being mobbed by a kite. The wing span of the short-toed eagle around 1.70m! Photo courtesy of What a bird!
Another unmistakable spot yesterday was the Egyptian vulture which we again saw locally. It is a striking bird which was soaring gracefully above a ploughed field.
I must also mention the elusive nightingale which has regaled us with its song most mornings as we have been walking the pooch. It eventually revealed itself to me, coming out from its dense hiding spot in the bushes to pose briefly on a low branch, singing its heart out. Just wonderful.
Have I mentioned the hoopoe yet? No? We often hear its characteristic 'Oop oop oop' call in the trees around us here and have spotted it several times in flight. I love its Latin name Upupa epops!

Saturday, 12 May 2012


Today, we signed the compromis de vente for the house. The seller cannot now retract from the sale so we have a bit more security, so it seems like a good moment to post some more photos of the property. This one is a photo of the property that currently hangs on the kitchen wall.....
This is the property (centre photo) in its setting - wonderfully peaceful!
The inside of the house is perfectly habitable and full of wonderful old beams and other original features. It does need bringing into the 21st century but that will be an ongoing process. This room will be the living room...
... the door through to the kitchen...
The floor boards in the first floor bedrooms are in wonderful condition. We may however be replacing the wallpaper!
It is however the potential of the attached barn that we are most excited about. The structure is in fantastic condition and the timbers all appear to be sound. This is just the end offshot section. The barn as a whole is over 300m2 in size across 2 floors!

The 5600m2 of land also has masses of potential for the creation of a potager, an outdoor living area and possibly even, at some point in the future, the installation of a natural pool. We're going to be busy when we move in, that's for sure. We're hoping that date will be at the end of June if all goes well. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

At last!

I was starting to despair. The process has been long and frustrating and I couldn't see an end to it. People speak of patience, but mine has been severely challenged over the past few months. But then, on Friday, I had a call from an agent that had shown us around a property a few weeks ago. He had been well-briefed on our criteria and on our budget. Madame, he said, a property has just come to me that I think fits your criteria, he said, do you want to take a look? Email me some photos, I said. Which he did. Wow, said I. We popped along the road from Aspet to view it the same afternoon, we put an offer in on Saturday, haggled a bit on price and had our final offer accepted yesterday! It is the property I had always hoped we would find but was despairing of ever finding it. In brief, it is a wonderful old farmhouse that has been well maintained, is perfectly habitable and with bags of character, has a mahoosive attached barn that is in excellent condition and with tons of conversion potential, has 5000m2 of land and, most importantly, is in the perfect situation. Just 5 minutes from Aspet and yet on the edge of a tiny hamlet with waymarked VTT/mountain biking from the door, paths and tracks that lead up to the Col de Larrieu and beyond and more road biking possibilities than you can shake a stick at! Oh, and it is so peaceful. I still can't believe it is within our budget. Here are some photos.

Watch this space for further developments!