Thursday, 28 February 2013


We returned from our holiday in the Var to a few days of lovely, warm weather which enabled us to chainsaw to length and stack two more stères of wood ready for the cold spell that was forecast. It also enabled me to dig over a patch of the potager in anticipation of some frosty mornings which I hoped would help to break up the heavy soil a bit. I have now got my sowing/planting plan sorted and am impatient to get started on the production of this years veggies!

The snow arrived as forecast on Sunday and, for the first time, it actually settled here at our level. Our little hamlet looked very pretty in its snowy setting
 We had a couple of lovely pretty snowy walks

which the pooch enjoyed

Then my thoughts turned to skiing. It is three years since I last skied. Looking back at my blog posts, for some reason I just lost all of my confidence and, instead of enjoying time on the slopes, I ended up stressed and tense and having a thoroughly miserable time. Not fun. But with the arrival of fresh powder, the anticipation of a blue sky day and some amazing ski resorts in this area, I was keen to see whether my feelings had changed or whether I should seriously consider selling the skis. So, with Suzanne and Steve and a couple more of their friends, we headed across the border into Spain and the resort of Baqueira. I have to admit to being pretty apprehensive and nervous but thanks to the conditions those feelings were soon put to bed. The snow was stunning and the skiing an absolute delight. The resort has a massive choice of wide, sweeping blue and red runs which enabled me to find my ski legs, to relax and actually enjoy the experience. Baqueira Beret is also a spectacularly beautiful resort which probably helped!

Fiona and I were of the same mindset and were quite happy just cruising down the easier runs, whilst the others went off to explore some of the harder stuff. But despite spending the day there, we only just touched the surface of what Baqueira has to offer. I am keen to go back before Winter ends and explore some more. I think I'll hold off selling the skis for the moment ;-)

On the house front, we have now decamped from our bedroom into the gorgeous guest room in anticipation of starting work on the former. It will be lovely to have both rooms done and it's nice not to have any time pressures to get it done.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Exploring a corner of the Var

It's a long while since we last had a 'holiday' ... in fact I think it was this time last year, when we headed down to Spain for a week. So we were long overdue a break away, particularly seeing as the weather at home has been rubbish since what seems like forever. We headed along the Med coast, through the Languedoc region to Provence and, more particularly, the Var department which is an area of France that we have never visited before. It is a fantastically varied area, ranging from the upmarket port of Saint Tropez to it's backdrop of the wild, hilly areas of the Massif des Maures and the Massif de l'Estérel.

We had planned on doing lots of mountain biking and running, but unfortunately our plans were somewhat scuppered by the onset of a nasty gastric bug on the Thursday before we left which continued until the Tuesday of our holiday, leaving me weak and totally lacking in energy. Boo! The one run that we did manage to do was very disappointing as my knee flared up again after running nearly 8kms on the relative level. So so frustrating. So we did a fair bit of walking, with the wild coast of the Saint Tropez peninsula being a real highlight. Our first walk was from Plage de l'Escalet to Cap Taillat. The coastal path was challenging in parts but the coastline was just stunning.

The second coastal walk was from la Bonne Terrasse to the Camarat lighthouse.

On another day, we walked a cracking 9km circuit  in the Esterel massif which included Mont Vinaigre. Although the peak is relatively insignificant at 614m, it had a covering of snow on the Northern side. From the peak, we had fantastic views across the Esterel hills to Fréjus to our right and Cannes along the coast to our left

Throughout the area you can see the fascinating cork oak tree, from which the cork bark is harvested every 10 years to make, well, wine corks as much as anything else!

We also explored the Villepey lagoons at Fréjus where we were expecting to see a good variety of birdlife but we were sadly disappointed. Nothing but gulls, coots and the occasional comorant.

There was a lot of military activity in the area, thanks to the military camp near Draguignan to the North. We frequently heard gunshots and shells going off which pleased the pooch no end, as you can imagine. There was also a lot of helicopter activity which we observed close up during our aborted run near the Lac des Escarcets one day!

While we were in Provence, it would have been rude not to stock up on the rosé wine for which the area is renowned. But I'm not sure that 30 bottles will last me the summer. What do you think?!

It was lovely to explore another part of France. We will hopefully have another trip back there later in the year, but next time in Sadie and with the road bikes. After all, that area is where many of the pro teams train and there is an inexhaustible network of quiet roads on which to have fun. But for now, we are back home where we have much to be getting on with after our week away, starting with the chainsawing of some more wood to replenish our pile which is now seriously depleted. Sunshine is forecast until the end of the week. Yippee!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Just a word about the weather

Since mid January, the Pyrénées have seen unprecedented meteorological conditions. At the time of writing, just a bit further West along the chain, the resort of Cauterets currently has a depth of snow of 5.50m which is more than any other ski resort not just in France, not just in Europe but in the world! More snow is falling as I write and a depth of more than 6 metres is pretty much guaranteed by the weekend.
Records are falling across the chain. But here at 550m we have had mere dustings of snow which haven't settled. It has however been very very wet and cold and very windy as cold front after cold front, occlusion after occlusion push through. I wonder how much longer this will go on for? Whatever, we will shortly be escaping for a week of hopefully better weather along the Mediterranean coast in the Var department of Provence. I can't wait!

Friday, 1 February 2013

All change again!

Well, this week, as promised, has been positively spring-like with temperatures reaching the high teens... positively balmy! Wonderful!

On Tuesday, we headed up to the Col du Portet d'Aspet and rather than heading up to the Pic de Paloumère ridge again, we explored a new route up the other side of the Col which took us to the Sommet du Puech at 1669m. We had now idea how much snow would be up there and although we wore the snowshoes from the car, the path had seen plenty of passage over the weekend and the snow was well tracked and trodden down - we were thinking we should have worn our trail shoes instead! But from the Col de la Bène, the snow was deeper and the path steeper - the snowshoes started to come into their own. We soon reached the cabane du Bazet and were greeted with open views of the snow-clad mountains and our way up to the Sommet du Puech. The views on this outing were, not surprisingly, spectacular, despite the high level cloud which made for a very milky sun

So, 10kms and 615m of height gain for an outing of nearly bang on 3 hours - it was just wonderful to be 'up high' again.

Yesterday, with the lovely weather continuing, we got out for a 23km blast on the mountain bikes, just to check out conditions. Many of the tracks and trails were a complete mudfest after the recent poor weather, but it was fun rediscovering bike handling skills that I haven't used since we were in the UK!

I have done a couple of short runs over the past week which seem to confirm that I really am getting somewhere with my knee problem/lower ITB pain. My right foot is once again tracking straight rather then turning out when I run and much of the tension that has surrounded my knee for the past 10 months feels like it has been released. Just in case anybody is interested in what my rehab routine consists of, I am persisting with the myofascial release of my ITB using the foam roller, working on releasing the tension in my calf muscles and also my ankles, strengthening my glutes (especially glute med on my right hand side), strengthening my vastus medialis and strengthening my core. It has to be a regular routine if I am to stop the tension building again. But I'm getting there, slowly but surely.

The glorious weather is set to change dramatically overnight thanks to a cold front which is bringing proper winter storm conditions to the Pyrénées. The temperature is plummeting and heavy snow is forecast down to 400m, accompanied by strong gusting winds. Nice ..... NOT!