Category: Summer 2015

Hallway Progress and Bird Boxes

2000 piece jigsaw from Naomi

We have stayed clear of digging and heavy work to give my back the chance to recover properly so we can enjoy the last month here. Consequently we have done lots of little jobs, some creative things which Al loves. I am really rubbish as being creative unless in the kitchen! But I am trying…..!!!

So one of the jobs we wanted to get done this summer was to get the ceiling in the hallway done. Plasterboard is a right old pain as it is so many stages and such a messy job so always feels like it is going on for ever. So we lug the plasterboard up the hill to get going and then it is cut to fit in place and then get it up and attached, tape the joints, fill the joints, wait for joints to dry, sand the joints, re fill joints, re sand joints, then paint it et voila! Lots of dust later and the ceilings are in and in Breezy Blue colour and we are happy. Got the main beams sanded at the same time.

Since we had painted the railway carriage doors in the pantry I was keen to paint our bedroom doors. So whilst the place was upside door I cracked on with that as well.
We both love birdlife so have made a bird table to encourage them to come and feed and then with lots of left over pieces from the roof wood we have made a couple of bird boxes now hanging on the gable end. So we will see if we get anything nesting. It would be nice to have some birds about other than the 4 huge ugly black things that seem to like being here and head butting the velux windows for some reason!

We have gradually been getting fed up of lugging buckets of water up the hill to water the garden so we decided to invest in some rain water capture vessels for the back of the barn. After installing one with a lot of faffing, we decided to get another one installed to feed the water supply for the pantry. Now we have both water butts installed and we now just need to plumb in the supply to the pantry, pop a tap in place and we have water inside the barn…which will make a huge difference. Tomorrow’s job!

Jobs have taken slightly longer than usual as we have had a 2000 piece jigsaw on the go which my god daughter Naomi gave me 2 years ago. It is huge so we had to make a board to be able to do it. Fab jigsaw with the wonders of the world on it, so once again I have itchy feet. We were both quite hooked and have now finished it so maybe the job list will get done a bit quicker! We are leaving it up for a while though as it is a cracking jigsaw!
Final bit in the hallway is boxing in some of the pipework so it is not visible. Al has been plugging away at that when he has had a few spare moments here and there and again hoping tomorrow we can finish that off before we head to Spain for 4 days and then hoping to pop in and see Clive and Jacqui on the way back.

Categories: Summer 2015

Sri Lanka Adventures


Our month in Sri Lanka started with a night in Negombo as we arrived into Colombo airport late. From there we did a little tour staying 3-5 nights in different places taking in Kandy – Siguria – Trincomalee – Polonnaruwa – Arugum Bay – Ella and finally Galle.

If you like curry the Sri Lanka is gonna suit you very well. We managed to get a couple of cookery courses in. The first was around Kandy in a typical mountain family home. Very basic facilities but a great experience cooking as the locals do with seasonal vegetables and all done on a double gas burner like the ones we used to use camping with the scouts. The second was at a restaurant in Ella in a professional kitchen which was much more of a demonstration. Both gave us very different recipes and left us with a determination to pickup some spices and have a go back home.

Sri Lanka has a lot of buddha, some amazing ancient cities and a varied history. We deliberately split our time with some mountains, culture, beaches, history, then more mountains, a bit more history etc etc.

Other highlights included climbing Adams Peak, the wildlife, crazy bus journeys, taking the train through the tea plantations and also learning to drive a tuk tuk.

The Little Things

Another summer under our belts in the Pyrenees. This year has not seen the big dramatic changes of previous years, but it is the little things that make such a difference now.

  • Water coming out of a tap upstairs inside the building. Not only that but it landing in a sink, flowing down the plug hole and exiting the building.
  • Pictures on the walls.
  • You can now enter the barn and take your shoes off at the door and don slippers. Gone are the days when protective clothes were required indoors as it was dirtier than outside.

Breezy and I were chatting through highlights of the season the other day and a few things cropped up.

  • Definitely getting away for a couple of nights when the weather is suitable to explore further afield. Spain is a couple of hours drive away or a day’s hike. It is so different and the do tapas and Cava.
  • Having space for visitors. It has been a very social summer and it has been great to share the barn with old friends and newbies who have never seen it before like George and Emily.
  • Learning to identify a handful of new mushrooms and increasing our repetoire. Plus exploring some new areas of the vallies around us and finding fresh shrooming spots.

Before we headed up to Chamonix we ordered a cherry tree in St Girons and arranged for Rene & Anouk at the Auberge in Salau to pick it up and plant it at the barn.

The tree is now in and we are looking forward to beautiful pink flowers and fruit in years to come. The strawberries are still going strong in the raised beds too.

Categories: Summer 2015, The Project


We can hardly believe that it is already time to pack up and head back to Cham and onto the UK again. The summer and the autumn have zoomed by.

Last few days. We have been busy trying to tidy the place up both inside and outside before heading off.

We had all the wood for building stuff on the side terrace and needed to get rid of any wood that was useless and get the good stuff inside. This meant we had a huge pile of wood to burn on a bonfire.

At the same time we decided to get rid of any dead wood from around the back terrace which had come down in storms over the winter. A few hours and it was all cleared up and bonfire was roaring. All the decent wood is now stacked neatly inside in the hallway.

We also managed to tidy up the dead wood and storm damage from the terrace heading to the tree house platform that looks much better too.

Other bits of DIY jobs included finishing off the wiring, plaster boarding pantry back wall so now the pantry is a lot brighter too. Just needs painting next year now.

Then it was the usual pack up stuff, solar panels in, outbuilding locked up, outdoor furniture in etc etc.

Sad to be leaving  as it seems to have come around far too quickly.

Had a good night in Avignon on  way north. A tour around the papal palace was fascinating plus a wander over the famous bridge (what there is of it) and a fabulous meal in the old cloisters where  we were staying as a lovely treat to the end of our trip.

On to Chamonix and a night with Sauze & Patrick before chores around town and a transfer to Geneva to fly to the UK.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Fun and Frolics for my Birthday and Mushrooms Galore with Sauze and Patrick

Mushroom risotto

Great friends from Chamonix Sauze and Patrick had decided to pop in and stay with us in the “naughty corner” for 4 nights and to celebrate my birthday.

27th, Sept – Al and I had a day of getting things sorted at the barn, lots of little jobs needed doing before the evening. Wood box was empty so needed to get that filled up for the chilly mornings, food needed prepping, outbuilding sorting, plants to prune, curtains to put up in the green room etc etc. Beautiful day which helped motivation. They turned up just as we had finished a thirty minute forage for some mushies as an amuse bouche for supper.

Managed to sit outside for supper which was great. The legendary fish paella of Al’s went down very well along with cava and tapas to start with. We got the Swedish flame going which was atmospheric and fun too.

28th Sept woke up to a glorious day. A leisurely start with brekky and then we did some bits and pieces about the barn. Boys started work on the last bit of the back drain and made good progress. Sauze and I did a few trips up and down to the river for rocks to fill the hole up again.

We had a lovely salad lunch on the terrace before going off up to Cirque D’Anglade to mushroom. Sauze knows her mushrooms and we were keen to learn from her. So off piste we went and vertically up we went. Amongst pied de moutons, we found hundreds of trompets! BONUS. We all got quite carried away and excited.

So by the time we got back down it was 630pm ish and Sauze had dropped the dog bleep on our walk but she was pretty sure she knew where it was so they flew back up the hill and found it whilst Al and I got supper ready. Asian trout, patatas bravas and veggies and of course some mushies to start with!

29th Sept…BIRTHDAY DAY! Had a wonderful day full of spoilings. A huge array of cards and some FAB pressies. We had planned a walk which had been on our list for a while and ideal having 2 vehicles so we could do a van drop at the end instead of having to hitch back.
From Col de la Core we had a varied walk mainly traversing across to some cabanes up high, through woodland and meadows so got some lovely views on the way. Met some local bergers who were in the middle of bringing the sheep down plus about 30 black gorgeous horses galloping down the hillside to the meadow, was really amazing.

A stunning valley to walk back down to the van parked at Estours. More mushrooms!!!!!!
Sauze has volunteered to cook wild mushie risotto tomorrow night for us all with what we have found, should be excellent!
We were lucky with the weather and the rain held off until we reached the van.
Collected Billy from Col de la Core and then it was drinks in Seix before birthday bubbles, lamb, cheese, sparkling puddings and more bubbles. FAB way to spend my birthday with Al and 2 very great friends. Thanks for coming to visit and celebrate with us.

30th Sept. – Drain day…..Patrick very keen to get the drain finished with Al. Sauze cleaned up the mushies whilst I waded through e mails and then we did some yoga on the terrace. First time yoga lesson for me twas fun but I am totally useless!!!! Boys cracked on well then it was salad lunch and bangers on the terrace for lunch before the girls helped to finish the drain. 7 trips of rocks from the river to fill in the hole whilst the boys sorted out the pipe work.

Sauze and I walked Toody down to the village and the boys met us down there for a few drinks and a catch up with some locals before back for wild mushie risotto, twas truly delicious Sauze, marinaded pineapple in rum and some last bits of cheese. Chatting by the fire and then to bed.

1st October – Sauze and Patrick packed up the van before brekky and then headed off to Mallorca. They were having a couple of nights in northern Spain before taking the ferry across to meet Cham friends for a week in the sun. Sad to wave them good bye.
An internet day for us and a little bit of catching up. Can hardly believe we only have 2 weeks left down at our barn before returning to the UK, time has flown by far too quickly.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Bits and Bobs

Ceps on the market

So, as always a long list of things to do before our next guests arrived.
One of the main thing we wanted to do was finish digging the drain out the back which took us about an hour on a lovely sunny day. After that we started to tidy up the fruit garden, pruning the currants.

The other big job was to finish the pointing, little bits left in the outbuilding to do, all the lintels in the main barn to keep the little critters out and to make a skirting board in the hallway and point that in. We broke it down so not to be doing too much each day, one day for the outbuilding, one day for holes and downstairs lintels and then one day for skirting and top lintels. Looking good.

Supplies on wood were low and we wanted to make sure we had 2 full log boxes for the 4 days.

The pantry area had also become more and more of a dumping ground and we wanted to get the pantry sink in place on its frame and plumbed in so that was another big tick and gave us the incentive to tidy it up at the same time!

The usual St G day with washing, shopping and general town stuff thrown in there too and coffee with Anouk and Rene on the way back to catch up again.
Lots of little jobs done and we are ready for Sauze and Patrick.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Trip to Chamonix

We had very kindly been invited to David and Asa’s wedding who run a catered chalet at the top of the road from us so we decided to make a long weekend of it.

Billy safely parked at Alison and Peter’s again and we jumped on the tram to the airport which was so easy and quick. Met in Cham by Keith as we planned to have 2 nights with them to catch up before staying in town for the wedding night.

Friday was a chilled day with mainly food, chat and wine on the agenda. Great to see Sam and Andy too briefly for a quick drink before dinner with Keith and Lyn.

Saturday the sun was shining and we popped in to see progress on the chalet extension which is going to be great and I am confident they will be finished before we go back. Going to make a big difference. Dropped our kit with Lisa and then headed into town for a quick bite to eat at Elevation (bumped into Mark) so he joined us for a drink before we headed up on the train to Montenvers. A very original wedding with a 20 minute walk up the hill to a view point where we all sat on rocks and waited for the bride and groom and poppy their dog to walk down to the venue. Bagpipes playing, sun was shining and amazing views. The bagpipes played us all down the hill, on to the train and through town back to UCPA for the reception. Great mix of folk from all over the place and a great night.

Sunday we had a lie in and then met Sauze and walked from mid station of the Aiguille to Montenvers before taking the train down and catching up with folk for drinks at the Vaga. Took Lisa out for supper at Casa and then an early night before 5am start the next day!

Had a good trip back to the barn in glorious sunshine with lunch in St G on the way whilst we waited for washing. So we only needed a little snack for supper, a quick forage and we had garlic wild mushies on toast for supper with a glass of wine perfecto finale!
Now a week of detox and then looking forward to seeing Sauze and Patrick at the weekend.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Trio plus One

Wednesday and Fi, Paul and Debs are due to arrive mid afternoon.  In preparation we have cut diced and sliced all that we need for a paella and a salad from the garden. Fi is picking up prawns and the fridge is stocked with wine and beer. All bed linen is sorted and the place is clean.

When we woke from our siesta we found an email saying that they are delayed as their luggage is still at Heathrow. They eventually turned up about half seven so we cracked on with dinner while listening to their epic which included a detour up towards Port D’Ola due to a navigational error.

A lie in the next morning was very welcome by all and a day pottering around the barn and chatting. Paul and I got on with getting the rest of the pipework installed to get water flowing out of the kitchen tap and the ladies grabbed brushes and sealed the new terrace, affectionately called the “Helipad”. Roast Chicken supper.

Friday got us all out of the valley and walking towards Port D’Ola with a picnic, boules in Salau and beer at the Auberge.

Saturday, market day, so all down to St Girons to browse and pick up supplies. Late lunch of chicken salad at the barn and pottering on waiting for Matt to arrive from the West. Paul and I had just got the new pump connected, primed and pumping water out of the tap when Matt got here. Unfortunately the running water only lasted a short while as our inverter is not man enough to drive it. Had to test it all on the generator which is not ideal in the long term. Note to self, must get a bigger inverter.  Had a lovely evening around the dinner table with cherry hot smoked duck breasts, patatas bravas and salads, followed by rum and mint marinated pineapple.  Finished off with cheese and Chinese Checkers by the fire.

Sunday and Matt joined us for a circular walk from the barn with a little forage for wild mushrooms. Found some hedgehog fungus which were served with garlic on croute as a light bite for lunch after which Matt headed back to his Aunt in the Pyrenees. Paul was then desperate to start digging out the back of the barn where we need to get a land drain in. Once we got half way along with a sizeable trench we were both sweaty and ready for a beer. An early BBQ supper on the front terrace and bed.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

More DIY

Had a handful of days to get some things done before heading off to Chamonix for a wedding.  We managed to get the whole of the area inside the fences around the buildings strimmed which is FAB.

We seemed to have tools and materials strewn everywhere so that all got a general tidy up. We now have much more space to spread them all out again when we get back.

Also managed to get a little faraging in. Breezy made some bramble chutney and we found some shrooms for a little amuse buche each evening. No alcohol for a few days and lots of salad as we slowly live off the left overs in the fridge and the produce from the garden.


Categories: Summer 2015, The Project

Aiguilles Tortes

After a hard few days in the UK our walking trip to Spain seemed an even better idea to clear the heads before next guests arrive.

We had been trying to get to the Aiguilles Tortes National Park a few years ago in spring time but snow stopped our plans.

We headed off from the barn on the picturesque route over 3 cols of windy roads into Spain, very mizzly weather so no views.

Anyhow our walk in for the first day was only a couple of hours up to the Refugi Restanca so we were not too worried about the weather. As luck would have it the walk in was great, mushrooms galore so Al and I had a lot of fun wandering up to the hut looking at all the vast variety about, fantastic. Arrived to the hut in eerie weather.

The hut was perched by the lake and the mist came and went that evening but we sat inside happily playing cards. Highlight of the hut was the great friendly guardian, low point was the disgusting soup!

We chatted with the guardian and decided if weather was good we would do the Lac Rius loop and have another night at the same hut as this area was meant to be wild and not frequently visited. Woke to fabulous weather so plan A was on the cards. We saw nobody at all until after lunch at 2pm so a real bonus. Beautiful lakes, stunning granite peaks and perfect length 6.5hours so back in time to sit in the sun and brace ourselves for the same disgusting soup!!! but the pasta and roast pork in prunes was delicious. Met 3 very nice Dutch guys for dinner which was fun and who were also heading our way the next day.
Next day we were heading over to Refugi Ventosa and we decided to have a “Stevie Explore” on the way taking in Pic Montardo, incredible we had the summit to ourselves for an hour on our own and could see Mt Rouch which is the big peak next to the barn and pieced together the sky line. Clouds initially in the valley looked cool and by the time we left it was totally clear and we could see very clearly our days walk from the day before.
We headed “off piste” for the descent and found a nice little place by the lake for lunch before heading down to the refuge situated in a gorgeous location with yet more FAB views. Sat in the sun before checking in and the hut was really cosy, went up to the dorm which was one room with 70 beds!!!! mind you it was the best nights sleep Al and I both had on the trip thanks to wax ear plugs!!!! Luckily the place was not full as 70 people in one room would have felt like prison! Lovely food and 1/2 litre of wine sent us to sleep well.

Big day ahead of us for day 3, luckily Al made a good decision not to take in an extra summit as i always tend to be slightly over ambitious! We headed over a Col not popular so route finding kept us on our toes and then over into Cirque Colomers which has around 30 lakes so by the end of the day Al was over lakes!!! Just stunning and again the place to ourselves which just makes it. Colomers Hut was our least favourite but we did have fish for supper which was a lovely change from stodge, brekky was on the other hand dreadful! Luckily we were walking out that day so not too much of an issue as we had tapas lunch to look forward to.

A steady 1.5 hour climb up to the Col before descending back to Billy around lunchtime.
tapas lunch was a perfect finale to the trip away.
A truly amazing place to visit and we just touched on the west side so east side still yet to explore and lots of climbing too.

We then stocked up on Spanish petrol and food as so much cheaper than France before heading back to St Girons for a load of washing and a DIY shop.

Back to the barn via wood stacking at Peter’s for around 9pm. Prawn salad for supper and bed!


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