29 Apr 2007


Last week’s walk started at 9am, with a ‘pique-nique’ lunch, which is something the group do when the weather warms up, and before it gets too hot.

In fact there are only a couple more weeks of this and they will stop for the hottest months and the holidays, and recommence in September. I’m enjoying the walks hugely – they’re such a friendly lot, and every week I pick up a few more words. It’s a bit of a joke – my second French lesson for the week.
Re house work – god, what’s that!? I mean work on the house - I’ve managed to finish another bedroom, in time for my visitors who arrive next week. Sylvia and Sandy from Australia – we go back to 1986 (!) when we all worked at the same university. Sandy has just very recently left, and Sylvia is still there. If they read my last entry, I’ll bet they’re wondering who’s going to get the ‘up-hill’ room ……

I’m still thoroughly enjoying listening to my audible books on the MP3 player. Even though Nic and I are both downloading from our online subscription - 1 book a month – and swapping them, it’s not enough. So yesterday we decided we needed a longer novel, so War and Peace it is. So big (over 60 hours of listening!) that it’s downloaded in 9 parts. I’ve always said that one day I would read it. And now seems to be as good a day as any. That should see a bit of paint splashed around.
Saturday I went into Narbonne and bought myself a bike – I have two old bikes here already, but I do need a third for when I have visitors and we’re feeling energetic!
And while it was being checked and made ready, I wandered into the café / bar over the road from the bike shop for a coffee – the wrong café for me, perhaps…. As some of you know, I’m not that good around dogs, especially the ‘large’ sort. Anyway, I was busy taking a photo of an old boxer (or is it a bulldog? – I’m not sure ….) sprawled out under a table -

(esp. for you – Jane and Neil – proud owners of a boxer with a face only a mother could love!), when one of the customers was overcome with affection for it ……….. errrkkkkk……..
And then out came his mate, the size of a steam roller, from behind the bar ……

And to finish this post - and keeping with the animal theme - here’s a foal (looking pretty happy!) that was born a couple of weeks ago, in a field of red poppies just as you drive into the village. The back half of him is white and brown spots – perhaps he’s the result of a liaison with the spotted circus horses that were in town a while back!?

23 Apr 2007

Old dogs and crooked floors

The walk last week was along the Pech de Bize – the escarpment right on the southern edge of Bize. This is where paragliders launch themselves from and catch the thermals coming up from the valley.
We drove to the top and then did a 10 kilometre walk (yes, 10 – the longest one yet) along the top of the ridge and back, where there were some beautiful views of the villages of Montouliers and Argeliers. It was very hot, and a reasonably hilly course.

One of the walkers bought his old hunting dog along for the afternoon. She was a bit long in the tooth, and more than a little out of shape (ouch, that’s a bit close to home ……) and took every chance in the heat to flop into some puddles from the rain a few days previous.

And she wasn’t keen to leave it either. Monsieur said in her heyday she was very good at hunting rabbits and hares.

Oh, and I don’t think I’ve mentioned before about the sloping floors of the upstairs rooms. Not just a little slope – more like a steep incline! And the various bits of furniture need different sizes and types of blocks to get things on an even keel …..
This is a rather large block of wood under the head of one of the beds – which shows there’s a fair difference in floor level in just the length of a bed!

My room isn’t too bad at all, just a gentle slope. But my bed is on castors so rarely do I wake up with the headboard against the wall. The more restless the night, the closer to the middle of the room I end up.
Apparently nothing to worry about – just the beams bending and sagging over the years, although it is a bit alarming when you walk into a room and find yourself walking uphill just to cross the room!
And a wardrobe in another room with a block under one end. It doesn’t show up very well as it’s painted the same colour as the tiles, but it’s about 4 or 5 cm high…

And yet another wardrobe, but this one in a room with hardly any slope at all – but obviously worrying enough for the previous owners to fix with a few centimes under one of the legs ….
As I can’t put any planters out in front of the house (no footpath – just straight onto the road) – I’ve done the next best thing and put a few window boxes on the window sill.

10 Apr 2007


Today I’ve taken my latest visitors, Neil and Jane from Scotland, back to Carcassonne for their flight home. We have had a really beaut time – again, covered lots of ground during the days and had some nice evenings in at the house. Cooking up a storm in fact!
We had a lunch at Carcassonne Airport on the day they arrived, as I’d been told the restaurant there is good. And it is very good indeed. And as they were only going to be here for 5 days, I decided to begin the sightseeing after lunch, and took the ‘scenic route’ via the Black Mountains back to Bize. Well, as has previously happened, it took longer than anticipated, the roads were more narrow and steeper than I had thought possible (!) and we got back quite late. But it was fun, and a lot of the route was new ground for me, so all in all very enjoyable.
Good Friday we headed down to Perpignan to watch the Marche de la Sanch. The origin of La Sanch (in 1416) was to assist and accompany the condemned to their execution.
The wearing of the black and red hooded robes was to prevent prisoners being recognized and ‘lynched’ in the streets as pay back for crimes committed. It was quite a spectacle indeed – albeit with rather an eerie atmosphere. Some were barefooted and to add to their discomfort, chips of marble had been scattered on the marching route (a four hour walk!).
Saturday was a trip through to Pezenas for the wonderful all day markets, and then a round trip back via the coast, calling in a Meze, Bouzigues, Sete and Agde.
The marina at Sete:

Sunday we had half a day off, while I put Neil to work doing a few little DIY things around the place that I sadly had to admit needed more brute strength than I had. A leisurely lunch (an Easter special, set menu – just the five courses!) at a local restaurant with Sandra and Patrick, and then an afternoon trip to Minerve.
The village of Minerve - ten minutes north of Bize-Minervois - was a site of a Cathar massacre in 1210 A.D. during the crusades. It's stunningly set on the edge of the gorges that are typical of the area.

Monday was a big drive down to the Corbières region. On the way, a brief stop at the village of Lagrasse:

- and then on to see Peyrepeteuse, one of the Cathar castles. Absolutely amazing views from the top – I don’t think the pictures can really do it justice
- well, not the ones I have taken anyway.
Looking down towards the small village of Cucagnan.

Phew I feel exhausted just thinking about everything we managed to fit in – I think I’ll spend the rest of the week painting the house, just to recover! Seriously though - it was so good to catch up with Neil and Jane – we certainly had some good days out.

Roman roads, rosemary and thyme

Last Tuesday’s walk started literally just down the road – a couple of hundred metres past the cemetery. Up the hills and among the vineyards. And a good picking day for some – a little bit of wild asparagus, and lots of rosemary and thyme everywhere.
And here’s the oldest walker in the group with the spoils of the afternoon. Wild asparagus omelette on Easter Sunday is traditional in this area, and Madame has the makings for hers, together with a bunch of rosemary.
And something I found pretty amazing was that for a short part of the walk we were actually walking on a Roman road!

1 Apr 2007


It’s been a busy week – George and Izzy from Edinburgh have been visiting. They flew into Perpignan, did a trip into Spain to visit to Dali Museum at Figueres and stayed a few nights in the Corbieres in a stunning chateau!
They were only here for three full days but we managed to fit in quite a bit – Olonzac for the Tuesday morning markets, a full day in Carcassonne which included a visit to La Cité, and then down to Narbonne to visit the big street market and indoor food hall. Returned via Colombiers where we visited the Oppidum of Enserune, a pre-Roman site on top of a hill. The best bit was the amazing view over the Montady Lake, which was drained off in the 13th century by canals linked to a central sump.
An interesting ‘sat nav experience’ getting home. I apparently wasn’t paying close enough attention when I told it to take us home. Nothing felt right with the route we were taking, but figured it would get us back on track eventually.
Well it was the most amazing trip home – we ended up in the Black Mountains, as far north as St Chinian, when in fact our route should have taken us on a pretty well straight line, due west. No harm done – just arrived home quite a bit later than expected! And there were lots of laughs (verging on nervous giggles on my part) as we realised just how far off track we were! However the upside was that we saw lots of lovely countryside and some villages that we would not have otherwise seen – finally arriving back into Bize-Minervois from the north!
Here's a few photos of La Cité in Carcassonne:
... and in a sweet shop ...
Oh, we did find time for a little wine tasting at L'Herbe Sainte at the edge of the village of Mirepeisset about 6 kilometres from here.
And bought not only a nice range of bottles, but also went out into the barn and tasted direct from the vats. I bought five litres for 6.5 euros then straight back home and into bottles!

Moving sideways

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