Mountain Mumble July 2012

Just had a couple of days in Montpellier with my grandson and his friend. It was 38 degrees and no air. They have sprayers that mist water so you can stand underneath and cool off. Even the outside  restaurants have a fine mist spraying under the umbrellas. Great time had by all.

My grandson said he had come to help me and appeared quite keen to paint the garden fence. Well it may not surprise you but he painted the fence his hands,his arms.the cellar, his tee shirt etc etc.To be fair it is French paint and it is drippy and is awful to use so he now stinks of white spirit and isn’t a happy person.

I have finally finished planting all my plants and tubs. So we now have a riot of marigolds and all things orange and yellow I try and do different color themes every year. Now it’s remembering to water them.

My new front door has been fitted after a six month wait but it is lovely and makes the space downstairs an entrance hall and it no longer looks like a cellar entrance. Lovely.

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A Mountain Mumble by Mike

 

The Park Naturel de Haute Languedoc is situated in an upland area to the North West of Bezier in the Languedoc region of southern France.

Rising to over 1000m this area is split by many gorges providing a variety of interesting walks.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit this area for the first time when I was asked to guide a party of ladies for 3 days. Our base in the pretty village of Rocbrun was just 10 mins away from our first walk which started in the small village of Cep by the river Orb. The whole region is a major wine growing area and after traversing the village through narrow alleys we started to work our way through terraces of vines, beautifully maintained by the local workers. The soil varied greatly with vines being grown on schist, clay and limestone give wines with quite different flavours. Most wines are a blend of grapes with Carignan & Shirraz being prominent. Once through the vineyards we climbed through sweet chestnut forests to a high point where we had a great view of the Caroux plateaux, venue for our next days walk. Chestnuts, centuries ago, was one of the staple products of this region and was exported to be used as flour in baking.

To get back to our start point we traversed a “balcon” high above the river. overlooking the bright orange limestone cliffs of the Gorge D’Orb.

Our evening ended at our Chambre d’Hote de Mimosa with a lovely meal of local ham, lamb, selection of cheese made in the valley and a superb bottle of red wine made by Rocbrun grower.

Our second walk climbed the Gorge de Colombieres to the north. Fortunately these walks are very popular in summer and the local Marie has provided plenty of parking in Colombieres.

From the car park the path is accessed via a set of steep, narrow steps and then followed a well maintained path above the gorge. Many of these paths were originally built by the Romans over 2000 years ago, to allow easier access for animals to the high plateaux in summer to escape the heat. That these tracks are still in good condition is a testament to their building skills. This is a tough walk with a climb of over 600m on rough terrain and it is a surprise to find houses built into the cliffs where people lived centuries ago. These Troglodites were tough people. Near the top of the gorge there is a gite where walkers on the GR7, a long distance walking path, can find accommodation. It is disappointing that the gite does not sell drinks! This circular walk descends the eastern flanc of the gorge where panels show details of the rock climbing sites in the gorge. Unfortunately no signs of any climbers today. Lunch was on a grassy slope overlooking the gorge and soon we were on the long descent of 600m back to Colombieres. Again, this is a Roman road and great care needed to be taken as the path is really rocky and difficult to walk on.

After another good night sleep we were ready for our last walk up the Gorge de Heric (pronounced Eric!) There wewre a few aching legs this morning so it was fortunate that the road up the gorge is a good surface. This is one of the most popular walk in the area and is done by many families. There are panels every few hundred yards giving information on the area for the children, a really great way to learn.

The rock in the gorge is gneiss, a metamorphosed rock and very popular with climbers so it was no surprise that several of the road side crags were prepared with bolts for climbers. The much bigger cliffs in the gorge have several more challenging routes.

After 90 mins walking you arrive at the tiny hamlet of Herci and fortunately a café albeit without a toilet. After a really welcome coffee our path descended through the gite garden to the bottom of the gorge where we crossed the stream via an ancient bridge. A very steep climb through chestnut terraces brought us to the col de Bardu and up to a lunch spot on a huge rock over-looking the gorge and hamlet of Bardu. The descend covered yet another Roman road following two ridges down to the village of Mons where the well named sentier des Gorges took us back to the start of our walk.

This is a region really well worth visiting, especially in the cooler months of spring and autumn. Winter can be really cold and summer far too hot but being less than an hour from the Med and with lots of places to visit the Haute Languedoc should be on every-ones places to visit.

Till the next time

Mike

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November Mountain Mumble

What on earth are we to think? Sun and rain, does anyone know what the weather is doing? A couple of days ago our son went down to Perpignan and he took four hours to do three kilometres in a foot of water, eventually turning off the road and coming back home without even getting to Castorama. Apparently everyone including the Gendarmerie was out trying to clear the drains of dead leaves but with rain coming down by the bucket load they were wasting their time. Up here we had sunshine. How weird is that.?

Snow had been forecast for this week and although it has been cold and it has rained, there has been no snow except on the tops of Puigmal and the Cambre D’aze. It has been rumoured that the snow is over a metre deep on Puigmal and some hardy souls are ski touring. Now that is what I call keen.

The trouble is now that the wretched weeds are still growing and the rose bushes are getting new leaves. Could we picking roses for Christmas?

Now there is another thing, Christmas has really come up quickly this year. What is it? Er five weeks. That is really quick. I have to admit I start Christmas shopping early. This year it was June, I quite enjoy seeing something nice and think I’ll just pop it away the only problem is finding the thing when it needs wrapping and sometimes I have bought things and find out later that it is outdated or not needed anymore. Still my family always smile politely and say “ that’s lovely Mum” when they are probably thinking what on earth was she thinking.

What news of the village? Hmmmm, it’s quite difficult to say as there are loads of “ seasonal” staff pottering around. The resort is ready all the lifts are serviced and ready the piste bashers are standing by and the cafes and restaurants are fully stocked with food. The first weekend in December is a Spanish holiday and usually the village is heaving with people but this year we will have to sit and wait to see what happens. We are being very honest with people who are booked with us and keeping everyone up to date with the weather news. Mike spoke to a friends who lives in the Alps and he was in a short sleeved t/shirt and said there wasn’t a flake of snow anywhere. But it meant that he could keep working on his house renovation.

Poor Lili [the dog] was really freaked this afternoon as the chimney sweep came to do his yearly scrub. He uses a very odd contraption of a very heavy metal ball attached to a brush. He then gets onto the roof and drops the ball and the brush down the chimney therefore clearing all the debris as it comes down. It is pulled up and dropped down a number of times so all build up of deposits are dropped into the grate and then hoovered up. You would think it would make a terrible mess but it is one of the cleanest methods I have seen. Lili is reserving judgment on the whole thing including the chimney sweep himself.

Finally after waiting for three years and changing my mind several times on tiles for the kitchen we made a sweeping decision on the wretched things and they were up and grouted within two days. You would have really thought it was a major event to buy the things and we have made numerous visits to DIY shops for years . What was the problem? With other things we make decisions and stand by them but the tiles just took us one step to far. It must be an age thing. Now they look lovely and we are extremely pleased and maybe a little embarrassed at our indecision.

I’ll be back on line once we have something white and fluffy coming from the sky.

‘til then……… take care of yourselves

 

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October Mini Mountain Mumble

There is something weird in my life that always seems to happen at 5am. [Guernsey and the awning breaking]

A few days ago we were playing with our new camping car up at Aigues- Mortes and watching some of the festival etc. Of course there were loads of young party goers and we had expected some noise but they were all good and kept their noise within the town walls.

It was however a little bit of surprise at 5am to hear someone shouting and banging. We consoled ourselves with “ it’s just some drunks going home” and turned over and went back to sleep. Not for long though. The shouting and banging went on and on and on. I was getting slightly irritated and said I would go out and sort them out. As my French is absolute pants Mike said I should stay where I was and mind my own business. No real argument from me as drunks and French don’t sit well on my shoulders.

It suddenly dawned on me that the banging was coming from the direction of the automatic loo. Ha!……. Someone was stuck in the toilet. Now, I must say that I had not used it as Mike had done the “ roving report” and said it was vile and there was a notice on the outside warning that the lock was faulty.

So in this chaps haze of alcohol he had unwittingly got himself locked in and probably had sobered up very quickly finding himself in the pitch black and hardly daring to move his feet. Urrrrrgh .Fortunatley a couple of minutes later we heard someone go to help him break out of his night mare.

I’ve never liked those loo’s and no will never set foot in one again.

The weather is still sunny up here but we do have a good covering of snow on the mountain tops, looks lovely but cold.

‘til the next time.

Take care

 

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October Mountain Mumble

Yesterday it was summer and today it’s staggeringly Autumn/Winter. What happened over night that made the long hot days develop into a cold misty morning. Even the big tree in my garden has been fooled into thinking it was still summer and has not turned colour or shed a leaf. My poor plants are looking very dry but are surviving and my roses are still blooming but now has come the crunch. I knew something would happen soon as it always does, even the snow cannons were tested last week and the men are out checking all the pylons for the lift systems.

Apologies for not writing last month but I have been off the mountain.

Yes I actually get off “The Hill” sometimes. We went up to Guernsey to see the family and took our new motor home. And with all things new we were learning how to use the thing as we went along. It didn’t look too difficult. Park it up, turn the gas on and make a cuppa.

Nothing to it……or so we thought.

During the first night we were as snug as a pair of bugs when at 4.45am. there was a weird noise. As always when you hear a noise that you don’t recognise you sit bolt upright. It was pouring with rain. But everything looked OK so we started to settle down again, but not for long.

This time there was a terrible noise, bang, clash and the sound of metal. Mike jumped out of bed with me closely on his heals. The door was opened and the sight that greeted us was dreadful. Bent twisted metal and blowing canvas were hanging at an odd angles. The awning had collapsed with the weight of the water. Mike dashed out in his PJ’s and I stood in the door hoping that he could sort it out without me getting wet. This was not to be. There was a shout of “come and hold this” and I was put on holding up duty while he fiddled with the fixture that held the stupid thing to the van. “ Hold it UP” he shouted . I was and with the water gushing down my arms, down my sides and into my PJ bottoms I must have looked a sorry sight. So it was a lesson to be learnt……don’t leave the awing up all-night no matter how nice the weather is as it is a very cold wet and expensive mistake.

Up here has been fairly quiet except for two forest fires. One over in the valley of La Tour Carol in an area totally inaccessible to fire trucks and so the planes were used using Lac Matamale as the water source and yesterday week could see a fire on our side of the Madres. By what we could see Mike thought it was somewhere near the little refuge that they took on a snow shoe walk in the early spring. We started with two Canadian water planes, they used the lake again as their water supply and then about 6pm two more joined them in the hope that the fire could be put out before dark. There have been a couple of flights over just checking this morning and as far as I can tell….all is well.

I don’t know why I put that it has been quiet up here because it most certainly hasn’t. Every evening about dusk the noise starts…….as primeval bellows thunder through the forests that when you don’t know what it is frightens you to death. The deer are rutting and make a noise like something out of Jurassic Park and all we need is a dinosaur and Richard Attenborough staggering out of the undergrowth trying to flog us an island and we are all set for part four of the film series. Hopefully they will give up all the noise soon or I’ll have to go out nightly to give out throat lozenges.

We have already had some snow on the tops of the mountains but that quickly vanished with heat of the days we have been having. But I’m sure that it won’t be long before we start having serious snow falls and my thermals will be out of the cupboard once more for a six month stint of wear. [Not without changing I hasten to add.]

Must get on and get prepared for winter, the logs have been delivered and Mike has built a new log store [very posh] the garden has had its final weed and the barns have had their bi-annual “do” But do we sit back now and wait for winter…..no there are always things to be done and retirement is just a memory.

‘til the next time.

Bisous to all

 

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17th August Mountain Mumble

I really can’t believe that we are half way through August and the “Summer Proper” has just arrived. We seem to have so much low cloud and rain storms that the usual long days of hot summer sun never really came. Now however the sun shines and the weather is wonderful. We have had the late afternoon thunderstorms but they have been now real hassle.

One of the major problems is the dreaded weed. The moisture followed by the heat is just a fantastic catalyst for weeds. They have overtaken my paths and are choking my wild flowers. Yes that’s the same wild flower seeds I threw around so generously three years ago. Every Autumn I have heaved them out hoping the snow and low temperatures will bump them off a little so that I can be more selective next time. But all to no avail, they come up in the spring and go from an inch to three feet in days and take over the place.

In one way they go well with the backdrop of the mountains and a manicured garden just would not seem right.

We have now finished our days of main fetes and festivals and just have the mountain bike competitions which of course I will be steering well away from. The body armour that the mountain bikers wear is amazing, they stagger along the road looking like a cross between an armadillo and a gladiator. The clothing has developed greatly in the past few years and when looking at the routes these young men descend at speed, every penny spent on this equipment is worth while. They don’t appear to have any nerves at all.

Monday was a Bank Holiday and I can’t find out what it was for. The only thing I did notice that the local village church had a queue. Never have I seen a queue at a church in the UK. There must have been 80 to 100 people waiting to go in. And ours is a large church. I felt rather guilty not joining the throng.

Mike is walking with a friend up a route on the Carlit today. His friend hadn’t done it and asked Mike if he fancied a stroll. Never one to turn down the opportunity for a day in the mountains, he was up early and was off like a rat up a drain pipe. So it’s a day for me to catch up on some house work as our daughter Becky left yesterday to return home to Guernsey. And I don’t like to take over the precious days with her doing housework. The necessary stuff gets done but the serious stuff gets left until she has gone. So I have been a Gran that has watched Jordan slide down the shoots at the water park at Err which he loves and other hair raising activities that are around here. There are so many that he becomes spoilt for choice. But also appears happy to ride his bike round the village.

Well my washing machines have finished their cycles so I am off to peg out. That’s that washing not me.

Til the next time

Enjoy the last of the Summer Days.

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1st August 2011 Mountain Mumble

Good grief where has July gone?

I can’t believe it is the last day of the month and I haven’t mumbled once.

We have been so busy up here as we have had the Canadian Triathlon Team staying with us and the time has just flown by. It wouldn’t be right to say that I am tired after watching these guys go out three times a day to run, swim and cycle. Hour after hour they train without one word of complaint. How they do it I will never know.

Hopefully we will see the results of all their efforts next Sunday in London.

Lac Matamale is buzzing at the moment. The place has loads of families out and about doing the outdoor activities. It has taken a couple of years for the numbers to come back up because of the horrendous storm 2/3 years ago. The forest was decimated when we lost nearly 10,000 trees. The hours of work it has taken to bring it back to it’s original beauty have been enormous. Now new shrubs and plants are rising from the undergrowth where the ground had been shaded by the high canopy of the many trees that blew down. So something good has come out of devastation.

It is so good to feel the sunshine on my face [OK with sun factor 150] We were only just saying a couple of days ago that it felt like Autumn, there was that weird feeling and scent of September/October. But now we have summer and it is lovely. I even thought I may hire a bike and try to cycle round the lake. Now you know it’s good weather.

Something weird has happened to our church clock. It must be confusing all of our elderly residents as the “bongs” have gone wrong. It now bongs twice at 8am and bongs four times at 9am and then continues throughout the day in a state of flux. It has always gone with a slow “bong” and a “bing” at someone’s demise but now we haven’t a clue if there has been a misfortune or the bells have gone mad.

Bring in the bell tuner I cry.

Holiday seasons always bring out the worst in drivers. I am not saying that anyone in particular is to blame but if I hint that they come from the country just below France you will know who I mean.

Yeh go on it is the Spanish. What the heck……I can walk on the wild side and say it how it is

A couple of days ago I was in the centre of our village and had come to the central junction and indicated left.. Of course there was someone being stupid doing a five point turn so I waited. The car behind me didn’t, he shot past me and then turn acutely right across the front of my bonnet almost wiping out the turning car. He was then closely followed by a white van man who thought he could do the same. Chaos abounded with much gesturing and verbal nonsense. Why oh why can’t people use their eyes and common sense when on holiday or at anytime for that matter. Another layer of paint may have been one step closer to the scrap yard for me that day.

Must crack on and go shopping for food for the BBQ I seem to have volunteered to do this evening. Why do I always open my mouth and not think it through before I nobly offer to feed nearly 20 people. Common sense has never been my strongest point.

So til the next time

Cheerie.

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