Category: Summer 2016



I know there is a theory of JDI or “Just Do It” but we are definitely list people. I generally have one list with everything on a single sheet where Breezy will prefer to have separate lists on different bits of paper.

Towards the end of our stay in the Pyrenees there is always a lot of little jobs to finish plus some essential things to do in order to shut the barn down as such.

Little jobs were things like; finish back filling the wall and sow grass, put in stakes for raspberries, put tin on new log pile, plant roses…

Shut down jobs include; disconnect batteries, fly mesh off windows, clean toilets & fridge…

We did make time for a little foraging too as in the last week the mushrooms have appeared. The rest of the summer has been very dry and the pickings very lean.

Parasol mushrooms, birch bolets and hedgehog fungus provided us with starters in the last week at the barn.


Categories: Summer 2016, The Project



I don’t know why we do it but just as we are getting ready to leave our beautiful abode in the Pyrenees we realise that we have been hermits and not seen anyone. Tis the time to wine and dine friends. Tis also an opportunity to try out new recipes and get feedback with a view to increasing the winter repetoir in the Chalet in Chamonix.

We have had great fun adapting some Spanish recipes courtesy of Mr Stein and also a trio of lovely deserts.


New pudding tests

Testing out new puddings


Other visitors were uninvited.

Breezy’s Birthday

Etang Bleu

The sun always shines on Breezys Birthday and this year was no exception. Also it has become a tradition to venture out for a walk to somewhere new. This year we set off from near Aulus and headed up the valley to Etang Garbet. A fabulous path leads through the trees up to the magnificent lake. Family friendly and very popular during the summer.

From there we continued on up the valley to Etang Bleu with the intention of taking in one of the peaks behind. The way up involved a little scramble and was not so well travelled but gave great views of Etang Garbet on the way. We realised that with the shorter days we would not have time to go further and get back in daylight so enjoyed a leisurely picnic by Etang Bleu before heading back down.

A fish supper with nice wine to finish off a lovely day.

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project

Social Catch Ups

After our Spain trip we decided to pop in and see Clive and Jacqui (Stevie and Dave’s Dad) who live not too far away. We stopped at the border for a little Spanish fodder first though which was scrummy and then on to their lovely house in the Gers area. They had friends staying so the wine and food was flowing from as soon as we landed. Great to catch up and went back ladened with plums and figs from their garden delicious.

Other friends Terry and Ali were in the area after walking the Cathar Way and were ending at Foix so we popped over to see them for lunch. They found a lovely little restaurant and kindly treated us to lunch. Lots of chatter and catch up before we headed back to the barn via the DIY shop to buy a shower tray how exciting….10 years down the line maybe an indoor shower????

We stopped for a quick hello at the auberge and a couple of glasses with Rene and Anouk before heading home for a very light supper as we were full from our lovely lunch.

Garden still brimming with veggies, wild boar have been having a right old time here in our absence, fire on, washing up to dry, internet session with a glass of wine and some thought time about what we need to do before we leave in just over 2 weeks. Time has flown by this summer. So once again the list gets longer as we try and do lots of little jobs as well as have folk over for dinner/lunch before we go again.

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project

Spain Trip-Aiguilles Tortes National Park


We made it to Spain on the 3rd attempt and have had a ball!!! Sunshine, loads of isards to see, nobody about and stunning scenery with my hubby what could be a nicer way to spend 4 days.
We left the barn on a gorgeous morning but the snow was at 2000m and temperatures had dropped dramatically. Slightly concerned since most of the huts we had planned to stay in were about 2000m!

Had a good drive over with lovely views, took slightly longer than planned but did not really matter as we only had a 3 ish hours walk in that day.

We began from Espot which is a small village just on the outskirts of the park and very quaint. Lots of Spaniards out enjoying the mountains with it being the week end. We headed off to our first refugio Josep Maria Blanc (JMB) a stunning walk up through the forest, following the river and cascades up to a lake where we had lunch behind a wall as it was blowing a hoolie. Out of the wind it was hot but in the wind a tad chilly. From there we continued up to the lovely JMB hut situated on one of the many lakes in the park. Good atmosphere at the hut but only half full so that is always nice.

The next day was an explore day to get to the Colomina refugio. The main path takes just 3 hours ish but we decided to climb Pic de Peguera. A lovely remote path on the way up seeing nobody which was great except some Isard. From the col the ground got more technical and there was definitely a challenging manoeuvre at the top….I was scared!!!! anyway we finally got up there safe and sound but the rock was icy and slippy so we changed from our original plan of the ridge walk to Saburo as it looked quite gnarly and also quite icy! And decided to do a lovely loop taking in quite a few peaks the opposite way with no snow about. It was stunning. Saw one Spaniard on the way and that was it. A pleasant descent via lakes which were so so low on water they looked very eerie being so empty. Colomina hut perched at nearly 2400m had lovely views and again only a small number of us there. None of the huts seem to have white wine so this hut had cava so we decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of bubbles up the hill, very nice it was too!!

Next day was another explore day off the beaten track and some clouds were rolling about so we were being spot on with navigation as we did not want to get lost in the somewhat pathless terrain we were covering that day. Again loads of Isard to see on our way up, and lots of route finding, scrambling and fun to get up to the Col. Looked at the peaks to climb and thought rope maybe would be good so we decided to descend to the Lakes below for a late lunch in the sun.

Boulder hopping tastic on the way down but a picture postcard lunch spot with most of the hard descent done. From there a steady climb down to the last refugio Mallafre basic but great views of les Encantatas the twin peaks the park is very well know for. It was chilly and they actually lit the fire which was great.

Final day was just a few hours walk out through stunning forests and meadows back to Espot.

It is a really gorgeous park and well worth a visit. It is our second visit there and we hope to do another 3-4 day trip again next summer.

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project, Travels Tags: Tags:

Mt Valier Adventure


This explore has been on our list for a while and we finally got to do it in fabulous weather with an abundance of wildlife and absolutely nobody around, what more could we have asked for. Lee as always was a fund of information on the area which helped giving us a plan of attack.

So we set off from Col de la Pause which we know well and up to Port D’Aula. An easy stroll up to the Spanish border although quite windy the sun was out so ideal walking conditions.

At the col the map came out. We followed a vague path mainly on the Spanish side for 2 hours. En route we saw lots of Issard, (the Pyrenees equivalent of the Chamois) so that was a real bonus. Plenty of Marmots too but tricky blighters to photograph so Al says!!!
We then headed up to a col Peyre Blanc for lunch….looking down on the refuge, Mt Valier and Petit Mt Valier waiting to be climbed after re fuelling.

A slightly tricky down climbing section, made us both concentrate! And then from the final col it was only a 20 minute walk up to the Mt Valier. The thunder was roaring around us but only a few spots of rain before it passed and cleared again. Only ones on the summit fantastic and good views too. From there it is about 1.5 hour descent to the hut with our dodgy knees going slowly!

A fun night at the refuge with a couple of Dutch guys, and 8 French guys. Think we got special treatment as I was the only female there that night, dorm with just one other single guy so no ear plugs needed and a good nights kip after some excellent garlic soup, chicken in a wild mushroom sauce and crème caramel.

We got a detailed forecast from the guardians with the advice to get going early as a HUGE storm was expected mid afternoon. So we took their advice and headed off by 730am the next day. Up via Etang Rond and Longue both stunning in colours and amazing reflections. A good path took us up to Col de Clauiere (which is one of the paths used for the Chemin de Liberty) so some history info on the way too. As we got to the col, clouds were whisking up and around us made it all look pretty amazing. Luckily the clouds came and went and we managed not to be in them at any stage which was a relief as that would have made ther route finding a tad trickier.

Issard tastic we must have seen at least 70 odd in about 1.5 hours, one huge herd of 30 plus was amazing to watch. We felt so lucky to see so many at such close sight. We sat 30 mins from Port D’aula sipping tea and watching the wildlife around us for half an hour before getting back to the col and then descending to the refuge for our picnic lunch and then on to Billy. The weather held out so we were dry and got back to the barn for hot showers before the storm began and now the water buts are full again!!!!
Fabulous 2 day explore, we would definitely do this hike again, doable in a day but much more enjoyable in 2!

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project, Travels Tags: Tags:

Light Duties Week

Slight change of plan this week as initial plan was to be away hut to hut walking in Spain but my back went the day before we were due to go so we had to postpone. After 2 fairly painful days light duties could resume again and we had a really fun, productive week getting all the little jobs done which we have been meaning to do for ages. To top this we had glorious sunshine, wall to wall blue skies and no clouds pretty much all week, water butts are close to empty so a slight rain dance going on here too in the hope we don’t have to start the trips to the river to get water!
Scotty sent over a set of curtains which she no longer needed and so they have been installed in the green room . Suspended on an old bit of copper pipe sprayed silver and a couple of old finials which we found in the bottom of a box.

Anyway, lots of painting jobs for me which I could do in the sun at a slow pace. We now have an array of brightly coloured dining chairs rather than some rather drab looking ones! One of the chairs needed covering so we found some material that Al had snaffled from somewhere and I set to with the staple gun. Closest I will get to sewing!!! Anyway, looks great and is the extra bedroom chair we have been meaning to sort for a while.

Al had seen in a magazine something quite fun with letters in latin “In vino verde” meaning In wine we trust, thought it might be quite fun to have a go and get it up on one of the beams in the guest room. So using up lots of old pieces of wood we cut out the letters, routed them, sanded them, painted them, waxed them and got them up! Quite a lot of work took most of the day but we like it!

Another nice too was to make a blackboard to hang up in the hallway. Again trying to use up some of the wood so we can see the hallway rather than it being a wood pile. Again more chopping, painting and assembling….now in use and on the wall.

Naomi my god daughter gave me a HUGE jigsaw a year ago which we have not done yet as we have not had a table big enough so we set to making a jigsaw board to accommodate this monster of a puzzle! Managed to find 2 large pieces which we hinged together which should fit it on. Now just to do the puzzle!

Managed to get the fruit bushes pruned ready for winter time too plus lots of other little pieces in the garden.

We are slightly over lugging buckets of water up the hill to water the ever expanding veg patch so we have bought some rain water capture vessels for behind the barn so we can hopefully just use that water from now on, once it rains and fills the things up!!! Took a while, fitting, balancing and getting in situ with pipes flowing the right way. If it works well we will probably put another one at the other end at the back to be the water feed for the pantry tap.

Al did a steady stream of 20 buckets a day back filling the wall we have built this year and now it is almost there so just top soil to go on and to grass it. We want to create some beds for flowers there too and get a climbing rose to grow up the front terrace. Trying to get more colour to the place.

On top of that this week has been tidying up the garden a bit, strimming, collecting brambles which are in abundance and enjoying lots of lovely healthy food.

Had a lovely day trip out to see Ian at his new place just the other side of St G, he cooked a yummy lunch for us, and it was nice to relax in the shade and catch up. We caught up with Rene and Anouk on the way back with a few glasses of rose as we had not seen them for ages it felt like. They are in very good form and chilled with the end of the season getting closer now for them.

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project

Update and Wild Life


Since Laney left we decided to have a few days of pottering and getting little jobs done.

It has been boiling hot all week mainly in the 90’s so we have been back filling the wall and or strimming pre brekky in the cooler part of the day before the sun has hit the barn. The back filling has taken a long time and still quite a lot more to do. Gradually dismantling the old step by the gable end and putting the earth, broken rocks and anything else into the back fill. It will also help keep the gable end drier which is good for our bedroom which is a little underground.

Spent lots of time in the garden sorting out the veggies, plants and some weeding too. Veggies are in full swing now so no need to buy veggies from town which is great. Made a new compost heap too from fork lift pallets as the old one is overflowing.

Coppicing is always on our list and since it was so dry this week we made a start, flip me it was hot and hard work but we have cleared a little with 3 half days. Al wielding a chain saw, me using the loppers and then lugging wood up the hill for logs later and burning the smaller stuff. 90 degrees and a bonfire maybe not such a brainwave!  We have a POA for coppicing now but need to get both chain saws in working order again before tackling the larger stuff at the back.

The last bit of fettling in the pantry was to make some blackboard cupboard doors for the top units.  We are trying to use up the wood stock we have currently stored in the barn, supplies are slowly going down.  Anyway, doors now made, painted with blackboard paint, handles from stripping out some old caravans and they finish off the pantry very nicely. Now we just need to clean it up and start using it as a pantry rather than a dumping ground!

Saturday was fiesta day in the village. The local Chase/hunt  and the Trout Lovers Association had invited all the people whose land they use during the season to a meal in the village.  A really good show, 85 people and a scorcher of a day all in the marquee by the church.  Melon, venison pate and salad to start, lamb chops, sausages on the BBQ with risotto and beans, local cheeses and apple tart!  Needless to say very little food needed for the rest of the day. I t would have been Mum’s birthday and we like to sit and reminisce a little with pink bubbles and raise a glass to her.  So a perfecto evening to sit on the helipad in sunshine, looking at the views and thinking of lots of happy times and memories.  Mum would have approved of the gorgeous weather, view, company and of course the sunshine which she always loved.

We were meant to be in Spain for 4 days hiking today but my back decided to give in yesterday so we have post poned that whilst I do some sofa surfing and R&R and Al is pottering on with the list of more little chores.  I can at least totally catch up on work stuff for the winter which I have been putting off with all this good weather we have been enjoying.  Winter seems a long way away but the bookings are coming in especially now the schools are going back.

We have followed a wild boar up the 4×4 piste in the van for about 200m which was fab, and also seen a few deer out the back near the veggie plot. All very exciting!

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project

Laney’s Visit

Evening sky from Refuge Estagnous

Our great friend Laney had planned a few days with us so we collected her from St Girons on Tuesday for a few days hiking. Our initial plan was to go to Spain walking hut to hut but all the refuges were full so we changed plans.

Aperos at the barn

Aperos at the barn

Arrival day we managed drinkies outside and dinner around the fire inside which was a fab start.

Next day was an early start as we thought Laney might like the lovely loop to Pic Trois Seigneurs. Perfect walking weather hazy sunshine so not too hot for the ups. It is a stunning walk with a steep start followed by a lovely ridge line up and down to the final push to the summit for lunch.

Clouds were building and storms were forecast for later that day but they seemed to vanish as we descended and by the time we got to the lake perfect dipping conditions for Laney and myself.

From there a steep 30 mins descent before back gently through the woods and back up hill to the col. Back to the van just as the clouds came down and mizzle saturated, perfect timing.

Forecast was not good for the next day so we decided to potter about, book train tickets for Laney, go mushrooming and brambling. Wild garlic mushies and cheeses for lunch before a short stroll up to Cirque D’Anglade in the pm in the mist.

Adventure was a 2 days trip to Mt Valier which we have done before but we wanted to try another loop with Laney. BIG day with a lot of up over 1600m. A truly stunning day hike up to the hut through such varied terrain, gorgeous woodland and cascades to start with on steep terrain. This then opened out into meadow up to the first cabane. Another steep section to take us up towards the second cabane and then a more gentle stroll up to Col Barlonguere with great views of Etang Long below. Late lunch at col around 215pm.

Again clouds were rolling in and storms were forecast so we had a quickish lunch before making our descent to the lakes. The reflections into the clear blue blue water was just amazing. Saw a couple of marmots too.

Etang Long has a few exposed bits with cables to help you along the way and then down to Etang Rond which is steep and scrambly in places, so quite challenging for Laney. The clouds seemed to have disappeared which was great so I had a quick chilly dip in Etang Rond before the final few hundred metres back up hill to the refuge Estagnous at 2245m.

Due to the forecast on Saturday there was only 15 of us in the hut which was great. Drinkies well deserved and great fodder as well. Super nice guardians there.

The night was howling winds and by the time we woke it was mizzle and clouds swirling in and out. Initial plan was to climb Mt Valier and then head out but we opted to just trundle out as weather was pretty rubbish. Good call as weather got worse. Steady descent back to the van with some tricky steeper bits in wet conditions, saw Laney on her derriere a few times. Just in one piece by the end with a slightly bad wrist for Laney from one of her tumbles.

Instead of wraps we thought lunch in Seix would be a better option so stopped and had menu de jour of aubergine/mozzarella and then guinea fowl in an orange and rosemary sauce which was lovely.

Last night for Laney so we opened the bubbles she had brought us, garlic wild mushies around the fire with chinese chequers as the game we are all enjoying and then a veggie curry before early to bed for an early start tomorrow to get Laney to St G for her train to Cannes.

Fabulous quality few days with Laney proper catch up time. Just a shame weather in the evenings was not great so no meals on the terrace. See you next year Laney with Hoggster in tow!!!!

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project

Wall finished

New front view of the barn

Just a quicky with a couple of pics of the new wall out the front of the barn. All we gotta do now is back fill it, plant up the slate slots, shift the unused rock (~3ton), shift the unused sand (~4ton), na na na…

Categories: Summer 2016, The Project