Sunday, 30 December 2012

Where did that go?!

Crikey, Christmas has been and gone already. Mum spent Christmas week with us and we had a really lovely, relaxing time. The weather, unlike in the UK, was dry apart from a couple of overnight spells of rain and temperatures even reached the low 20s on the Sunday before Christmas. I don't think mum was expecting to be relaxing in a sun lounger, reading a book in the sun on the 23rd December!

Mum is a keen photographer and bird spotter which made 'entertaining' her a very simple task. On our daily walks with the pooch, the kites, kestrels, buzzards and herons provided moments of wonder and delight. The peace and beauty of this area captivated her and she can't wait to come back in the Spring to take photos of the flowers up in the mountains - it will be a special time.

While she was here, we visited the cathedral at Saint Bertrand de Comminges at the head of the Barousse Valley which is a place that we have often passed but never explored. It was just beautiful

This little fella made me smile ..... grrrrrrrrrrr!
I have had fun playing with me new camera over the past week or so and I think it has captured some lovely shots

We spotted the first violet of the Spring time today, which was a beautiful surprise!
On the exercise front, I took the step of reacquainting myself with my road bike yesterday, getting in a slow and steady 70km ride up to Saint Girons and back, under wonderful clear blue skies but with a chill in the air. It was my first ride on the road bike since the middle of August and it certainly felt like it. My shoulders, back and legs all protested at this sudden change in activity and my lack of power and strength was very noticeable. But I am hoping that this is just the start of more regular roadie riding. Time to get bike fit again!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bathroom stuff

Opération salle d'eau - it has been a difficult project for many reasons. But it is finally nearing its conclusion. And what a conclusion it is. Judge for yourselves.

The room as we viewed it for the first time before the purchase of the house.... it seemed like a tiny, pokey little room and it was hard to visualise it as a bathroom;
Once cleared of furniture, stripped of wallpaper and with the pine cladding taken down from the ceiling however, it started to feel more spacious;
So here is our new bathroom - it is just *beautiful*, don't you think?
Mum is arriving on Friday to spend Christmas with us and she is just going to love it. I am *really* looking forward to seeing my mum and to having her here with us for Christmas. I think she is just as excited! Happy days :-)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

More snowy stuff

The weather during this past week has been dismal ..... cold and wet and with strong gusty winds, but not quite cold enough here at 600m to snow. However, from 800m it was a different story. Today dawned cold, crisp and clear - not a day to waste indoors after being effectively cooped up all week. No, we had to get up into the mountains for some fresh air, sun and snow and a reccy for some potential ski touring activity this winter. It was a half hour's drive to the Col de Menté and from there a short hop up to the Mourtis ski station which is not due to open for another 2 weeks, despite the amazing conditions. The piste bashers and snow canons were busy preparing the pistes which provided the perfect surface for us and the pooch to snowshoe up. We soon regretted taking our snowshoes and not our skis as we were surrounded by ski tourers who were taking full advantage of the fantastic powder, skinning up and skiing down the bowl on the other side of the ski resort. But it was stunningly beautiful up there and we will be heading up with our skis during the coming week. In the meantime, I'll let the photos do the talking

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Still smiling!

Well, the leg has healed wonderfully well and I am now able to pick up the exercise again which, after 4 weeks of doing so very little, is a great relief! I was, however concerned about my fitness levels but it was only by getting out and doing stuff that I would find out where I stood.

Winter proper arrived on Wednesday and Thursday last week, with snow settling down to 800m. We are at 600m so we were just treated to heavy rain and cold, which wasn't so pleasant, but with the woodburning central heating working well we stayed snug and toasty indoors. On Saturday, with a clear, blue-skied day forecast, Suzanne suggested we head out for a snowshoe outing. Oh yes please - what better way to celebrate the 1st December and the first proper snowfall of the year! Ian and Jane joined us as we headed out to Arbas, just 10 minutes along the road from us, and then up the hillside to the track below the Estives de Paloumère.  It took us 45 minutes on a track and then paths, to reach the Estives (the summer mountain pastures for sheep and horses) but it was one of those jaw-dropping 'WOW' moments when we did. It was one of the most stunningly beautiful winter wonderlands that I have ever seen.

We headed on up the hill, determined to reach the point that would afford us the best views of the high mountains
The wind had created fantastic rime formations on the ground and on the hillside above - it was like a cake decorated with ornate royal icing! Quite spectacular.

The views from the top were worth the effort - WOW!

But we didn't hang about for too long as the windchill was quite significant and the pooch was suffering with cold paws. We headed back down, taking in the beauty, before heading back to the car

It had been a grand afternoon out in great company and the legs felt fantastic and not even tired after 11.5kms and 550m of ascent on the snowshoes. And thanks to my wonderful new Canon Ixus 230HS camera (which I highly recommend to anybody looking for a slip-in-the-pocket, highly intelligent camera with an array of manual as well as fully-auto functions, by the way), I was able to capture the outing with some lovely photos! I was well-chuffed (as they say oop North!). More please!