Jack and the Broccoli Stalk

As with guests at the chalet in Chamonix, we always ask what people eat and don’t eat. One of the things that Jack (Breezy’s nephew) preferred not to eat was broccoli. Jack had not had roasted broccoli before, and now loves it. This was fortuitous as we had rather a lot in the garden, ready to eat.

This was the first of many new experiences over the next ten days of his stay at the barn. Others included:

  • Climbing a 2,489m peak
  • Making (and eating) fresh pasta
  • Dry stone walling and step making
  • Foraging and cooking fresh wild mushrooms
  • Felling trees, chopping, splitting and stacking logs
  • Cooking dessert in a Dutch Oven
  • Playing qwirkle
  • Outdoor showers
  • Eating garlic at least twice a day
  • Survival without the internet
  • Planting trees
  • Getting big bertha rocks out of the ground
  • Brushcutting
  • Fire juggling
  • River dips and wild swimming
  • Shelf building
  • Living with two old fuddy duddies!

It’s now quite without you Jack. Thank you and good luck at Conaglen.


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Soubirou ridge walk

One of our favourite walks locally and the ridge we see from the kitchen window at the barn. From Col de Crusous to Col de la Serre is an amazing ridge with fantastic views on each side spanning miles of the French Pyrenees. It is not technical though being sure footed is essential.

We liaised with a couple of friends from the village to do a car drop at the Gite in Rouse, above Couflens, the night before and picked them up early in the morning for a start from the mine above Salau. From there it is about 2 hours of walking up to Col de Crusous. Starting early means that you are in the shade for all bar the last bit of the ascent. After a short break we turned north to follow the ridge. We had a great day with almost perfect weather. Flowers, vultures, mushrooms and lots of laughter with friends.


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Neouvielle National Park 4 day Explore

We’d been keeping an eye on the weather and looking for a 4 day window to get away with the tent into the mountains to a new area. Weather forecast kept changing but we had a plan to leave on Friday no matter what!

So when we woke to cloud and mizzle at 6am on Friday morning we were not impressed! However, the weather gods were with us and as we turned up at the parking area the sun was shining and continued to do so for pretty much the whole trip.

For those of you who do not know this area, we drove over the famous Col de Tourmalet en route to the parking a few km below.

WOW, what a stunning area this is and so pleased we got to see it at it’s best. Full of granite peaks, quite a few 3000m peaks too, pine forests and loads of stunning lakes and valleys each with their own different charm and beauty.

Day 1

Walking in from Tournaboup parking area up to the Coubous lakes area, quite a few day trippers about not as busy as we thought it may be. We took a small path up over a steep col de Mounicot before descending into the Glere area where there is a refuge. We were higher up than here and found a wonderful camp spot to ourselves on Lac de Mourele. Perfect for a dip. We also lucked out and saw a Chamois and quite a few marmots too.

Day 2

This was a big day as we were planning to take in Pic de Neouvielle at 3091m. We had spied the Col de Chausenque as a way up to join the main “toursit route” on the other side and hoped it would go. It was a steep boulder hopping 2 hours up with a 15 minute section of very loose and very steep terrain, not very nice! But the rest of it was OK. From there it was another boulder hopping route up to the summit. Quite busy mainly with Spaniards so we did not get the summit to ourselves but shared it with about a dozen others. Incredible views in every direction especially of Gavarnie. We were pondering a couple of different options from the summit but decided that with heavy packs maybe our scrambling plans were a tad over ambitious so we descended to Lac D’Aubert for the night. This is an official bivi site as officially there is no camping in the NP other than the 2 official bivi sites. As it was a Saturday we did not have the place to ourselves! But it was great to see so many people of all ages up there for the night, kids being introduced to camping in the mountains, climbers wanting an early start the next day, GR10 people. It was a quiet and chilled place even if it was busy. Did manage a lovely dip in the lakes which was great after a hard and long descent down.

Day 3

Another glorious morning and we were up and away by 8am after brekky and de camping and had the next 2 hours pretty much to ourselves as we passed over the Col D’Aumar and down into the Estibere valley with lots of pretty lakes before arriving at the large Lac de L’Oule, good snack stop here before joining the GR10 and yomping up to Refuge Bastan and beyond to the col. This was stunning with the lakes, fishermen were about and even some random ducks on one of the lakes! We had a quick lunch near the refuge before continuing up to a col with the hope to climb Pic de Bastan. It was just beginning to cloud over at the col and we looked at the way up the Pic and it did not look tempting at all, loose rock never great so we decided we would pop over another col and head to Lac de Bastan to camp. Good call!!!

Found a superb camp spot again to ourselves with sun till 745pm. As we got to the camp spot the clouds cleared and we had a glorious evening. Even Al joined me for a dip! Lots of marmot action and birds and of prey which we are struggling to identify! Think we are both looking forward to non dehydrated food again!

Day 4

Woke to an amazing morning, one of those mornings that you pinch yourselves and say how lucky are we! Blue skies all around us, cloud in the valleys below, wonderful light on the lakes and a peak to climb! A gorgeous walk up to Col de Nere and then a scramble route up to Pic D’Aygues Cluses, a small peak but a really gorgeous one. Sat at the top in the sun on our own taking in the wonderful surroundings. It could not have been nicer. Scrambled across the ridge and down the other side to the next col. We were on the shady and windy side of the ridge and it was freezing! Hats, gloves and layers went on for 30 mins till we got to the col to defrost!

The ridge ahead looked tempting but will have to wait until another day due to time. We ambled down the beautiful Aygues Cluse valley following the beautiful river on easy terrain. A new refuge is being built by the lake and looks like it will be open next summer with current progress.

Our final stop was by the river for a quick lunch before heading back to Billy.

Would highly recommend this area to anyone who enjoys hiking we loved it. And if anyone can help us identify any of the birds that would be ace.

A fantastic few days away with hubby and the tent, nothing could have been nicer. Re charged and pleasantly pooped!

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Pique Rouge Bassie Loop

Another hot day dictated another early start to beat the heat. Breakfast at Coumebiere before heading off via Col de la Fouzes. At the Col we turned right to take the ridge in the sunshine to Pique Rouge Bassie. There was a welcome slight breezy on the ridge, and on the lee side there was a huge flock of crag martins. We watched these beautiful birds playing in the wind for a while.

A cup of hot cassis and ginger (our preferred thermos filling) and a handful of peanuts at the summit before descending passed the lakes towards Refuge Bassie. We stopped at the the lower lake of Etang des Lavants for Breezy to take a plunge. From the Hut, uphill again, to Port de Bassie and Port Saleix then back to the van on the GR10.

Big loop of 1700m and 19km with great views and hardly anyone there.

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The weather forecast said it was to be 35 degrees so an early start was called for. Alarm set and no coffee in bed. Breakfast made up in ice cream containers and we were off.

Got to the parking, breakfast and away for just gone 8am. Most of the way up to Etang Hillette was in the shade which was bliss. There were a couple of people there but it was super quiet. An easy hour of boulder hopping to get to Etang Alet where Breezy took a dip. Lunch and then took the track via Cabane Lacarde and the descent back to the van. We couldn’t find the Cabane where it was marked on the map. There was a shelter built under a rock above the tarn but our notes from the last time we went was that it was quite comfy and well equipped.

A much needed day in the hills. Nice and peaceful though the parking was completely chock a block when we got back to the van.


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Steve and Anne

Anne has visited us at the barn a couple of times before but Steve has never been. Friends from Chamonix, they drove down for three nights and had fantastic weather. Having said that, I think the whole of Europe has had fantastic weather. It did rain one evening which completely refilled our water butts.

Two lovely walks, the first up to the second waterfall, le Bege. The next was above Rogalle around Le Rus. It was a fab loop, mostly on the flat but with amazing views over Oust and some beautiful hamlets. Took a dip in the river at Kabernac on the way back for a late lunch on the terrace.

It was brilliant to see them both here. Must get to visit them in N Wales at some stage.

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Papa Breese

Breezy’s Dad hasn’t been to the barn for a couple of years and quite a lot has changed in that time.

We collected him from Carcasonne airport and had 3 nights at the barn. Then drove over to Cassis for a couple of nights en route to Grimaud to meet up with other Breese family members at a Villa to celebrate Iain’s 80th Birthday. It was actually the year before but was cancelled due to travel restrictions.

Time at the barn was playing games, catching up and relaxing. Cassis was being tourists, eating sea food and drinking local wines. Grinaud was family time. Playing tennis, swimming in the pool and playing games. Not to mention the drinking and eating. Drinking magnums does reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries from pulling corks.

All in all there was a huge amount of laughter and banter; and it was great fun. Now for the detox.

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Running repairs

Having converted a barn and made it habitable one would hope to be able to put one’s feet up and relax a bit. Maybe read a few novels, or even write one. However, stuff starts to rot, slates slip, fences go slack, etc. This is compounded when most of the building materials have been recycled or repurposed. Then there is the other “stuff” which has been salvaged over the winter which needs some fettling. Finally there is the new sign for the Naughty Corner which Patrick made us in Chamonix. The Naughty Corner is the little shack which we lived in for the early years. Thanks Patrick.

The list included:-

  • Removing the rotten steps between the front terraces. The originals were salvaged from the tip in Les Houches with our great friend Keith some 10 years ago. The “new” ones were salvaged from a friend of Patrick’s in Vaudagne near Chamonix. A bit wider and substantially more stable.
  • Renovating a garden table salvaged from Chamonix over the winter.
  • Fixing the helideck – decking planks lifting needed fixing down.
  • Tensioning fencing.
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Port de Salau

There is something really nice about being able to walk from the door of the barn into Spain. Less than two and a half hours and 1000m of ascent carrying a sandwich and a salad for Breezy and you’re there. Generally it’s not the most interesting walk but this time of year the flowers are amazing. Also the birdlife, though never the easiest things to catch on camera.

We were lucky enough on the way back down to sit and watch a couple of goldfinches feasting on a thistle.

We also took a detour to go and look for the Eglise St Jean. This sign has been on the path for all the years we have lived here. We have never before even been curious enough to explore. This time we did. We found a pile of rocks with another sign explaining what the rocks were and a magnificent view of cascade Bege. In fact the site is a mere 10m from the path, and very interesting. From there we took the higher path round the back of our barn towards the village as a more interesting way home than the 4×4 piste.

Both the sandwich and the salad were delicious.

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Have they got legs

Early morning start to drive to Guzet for a trek up Pic de Seron. Having bailed on our walk last week we were hopeful to actually get some exercise. Deliberately not beasting ourselves on the first proper walk since the winter in Chamonix we went for familiar territory and not too much ascent.

Headed round clockwise via Etang D’Aube and on following the red markers towards the summit. We had forgotten about snow patches at this time of year and skirted round some by tackling some rock scrambling. Some however was unavoidable.

A quick snack on the blustery top as we scanned the horizon working out which peaks were where, then headed down to Cabane de Turguilla where we had lunch. On past the two lower Etangs to the ladders and back to the van.

A beautiful day with loads of wild flowers (all of which we have forgotten their names) and, we still have legs. Tip top.

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