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Eyes popping slightly

Life goes on. A quick word picture for you: swallows fly purposefully overhead, birds chatter in distant trees. The odd vapour trail marks the powder blue sky. Its half seven and the early evening light is golden where it hits the walls. The cat is curled up, signalling perfect peace

Its been a lovely week. We’ve had two sets of visitors

 and seeing the house and garden through their eyes makes it all feel very lovely again. I don’t mean I don’t still madly love it, but what with the killer caterpillars, hornets nest, mozzie bites and gnawing noises in the beams, its sometimes hard to remember the joy. Having visitors helps you recalibrate, I reckon. With our first set of visitors, we simply chilled: swam a bit, cooked alot, did the odd teeny trip out, such as to Castelnau, completely forgetting it was a bank holiday. The only place open was the Hotel Dupont and we sat next to a table of Brits (bloomin noisy!!!) deep in their cups of beer. The same way that lizards make a run for it when they see anyone approach, we tend to clamp our mouths tight shut when a Brit approaches, say in Lidl, and just breath through our noses, eyes popping slightly, till the danger is past!

That said, I am so very grateful to a couple of my countrymen, who are going to be helping us get our van on the road and get rid of all the uninvited critters free loading in our house, grrrrrr.

We did do a day trip to the African Safari park near Toulouse. I will say that it was sweet, well organized and interesting, but its not a patch on Longleat Safari Park. Liam was terrified of driving through the park with the hire car, very sensibly pointing out how the monkeys at Longleat clamber all over your car, pulling anything they can off, but really, we were perfectly safe. Not only was it ridiculously hot, but all the animals were behind electronic fences. We did feel quite close to the park inhabitants:

Maybe we might have liked a bit more fenceage with these bad boys, for example; I’m not sure an electric fence would have stopped them if they had wanted to get out of the pool…

We’ve been playing lots of chess in the shade:

The garden continues to keep on giving. Look at these pretty pink flowers that just randomly pop up:

and this beast that just emerged the other day

We were sent these amazing biscuits the other day:

I’ll just put the kettle on, and catch up next week xxxxx

French homegrown figs

Its funny, but it can be hotter here at five, than in the middle of the day. We’re not suffering the catastrophic heat that is frying Spain and Italy, but its hot enough today to be seeking shade at 18.40. Last Monday we had the most violent storm I have ever experienced. The first wave coloured the night sky violet with orange flashes and there was a moment when we all heard an approaching roar in the dark, had just enough time to say ‘what’s that noise?’ then suddenly a wall of rain crashed towards us. As a family, we legged it, only to realise the cat was cowering under the outside sofa and we all stood shakily at the back door calling her, rain gobbeting all around us. Then….a second storm erupted, with lighting so bright it burnt our eyes and flashes came every heartbeat. And it hailed!

Now, the sky is a delicious blue and the air is still and I ate my first French homegrown fig. We used to have a fig tree at Rigby House in Norwich and these taste just the same. I am planning a lunch tomorrow with melon, cheese and honey and figs. πŸ˜† We had such a great snack yesterday in Sainte-Lary’s:

We found a fancy bar, with a balcony and drank beer. Sainte-Lary’s is our nearest ski resort and we piled into the car to take a gander. The town itself is further above sea level than Mount Snowdon, but is spread out at the foot of the mountains, so we drove up as far as we could:

A group of lads strode passed, weighed down by massive ruck sacks, which turned out to be parachutes for paragliding! We watched the sky fill with neon frowns, drifting down to the valley below:

Seeing the ski lift trundling down was brilliant

Not far from Lary’s is a big tunnel that takes you to Spain. We’ve left that adventure for another day. That, by the way, neatly illustrates the difference between being on a very long holiday and realising we actually live here; there is always another day to explore our new world. Talking to other arrivistes makes me realise that we haven’t really done that much yet; with the husband working, we only do trips out at the weekend…but, no rush πŸ˜„

I did finally get to check out a local market though, just down the road. Its a sweet village called Castlenau Magnoac and holds its market on a Saturday. 

The village is very attractive

and has a magnificent cross.

Youngest and I have been playing i spy Jesus on the cross all summer, admiring the diversity of materials and colour. This one is a 10pts, I reckon. 

Trying to rescue Sleeping Beauty from behind her thicket of thorns, or, more prosaically, trying to bring the garden under control, is proving to be a herculean task, or even a Sisyphean task:

We have gone from thinking one of us can chop, while the other chomps ( puts branches etc through the shredder to be composted) to now thinking the best we can do is simply stack everything we chop in a big pile and then have a massive bonfire in October, when all the crops have been harvested. There is literally layer upon layer of cascading brambles and ivy choking the trees. And who knew that mimosa trees could spread just like bamboo, which we also have, sending up shoots in the blink of an eye? 

The cat loves the garden and comes on walks with us, climbing trees to show off. She has even turned her hand to playing poker in her bid to become more human. Her mouse tally is rising. 7 kills and counting (3000 to go, we are a bit infested πŸ€”. That’s what you get for living in the country side, sigh).

Hoping you have a sun drenched week 😎

I worried that I might hit a week where I have nothing to relate, apart from ‘gosh, it was hot’ and I did some gardening, but actually, things have a way of filling your days, so I think there will always be something to write about.

My head is still full of smokey tendrils from reading A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. It was an intense, painful book to experience; I felt bereft when I finished and keep returning to it in my thoughts. I rather think it is not a book for everyone as it can feel overwhelming and relentless and I can indeed imagine one friend hurling it into a metaphorical bin, with a snort of ‘How bloody depressing!’ but for me I believed in the writing so completely that the characters are almost people I might have known. There is merchandise, t shirts and the like and I am quite tempted, just as a way of keeping them with me a bit longer.

Anyway, back to the South of France. My little tiny village of 326 people was swelled by loads of party goers with a night of fabulous gypsy music:

and the day after, in the next village, there was a Fete of ancient times, with people in costume, recreations of a school room and lots of art and tat:

And sunbathing fat geese:

And really furry chickens:

And old vehicles:

I couldn’t resist this photo of old bikes:

We’ve been swimming in the municipal pool, which is just down the road. It is now packed with brown smiling bodies of all shapes and sizes, as kids are on their grande vacances.

Oh, I will just mention our favourite cake shop, in Saissan. Each time we walk towards it we think it will be shut; its not that it’s unwelcoming, it just has a very quiet aura, very relaxed about attracting passing trade. Its just near the pizza emporium on the corner. Anyway, you cautiously push open the door, see it is open, then smile and drool. Its very simple fare, but delicious:

My current favourite is the coffee or chocolate religieuses (Γ©clairs). Actually, my phrase there, ‘ its simple fare, but delicious’ sums up all my foodie experiences so far in France. For instance, yesterday in Toulouse, we had veggie and also salmon burgers at a place opposite the market and they were so tasty: perfect chips, nice salad and brioche buns and moist salmon. No apologies for talking about food in this blog and no simpering about weight worries. Its good food here in la belle france and I intend to delight in every mouthful πŸ˜†

So, critter of the week award goes to this guy:

Award for gadget of the week goes to this petrol generator. It means we can finally cut back all the brambles at the ends of the gardens ( yes, the plurals are deliberate )

We spent a happy morning chopping down our poor old fig tree, that collapsed in a storm. The smell was pure Jo Malone, peppery, exotic and fragrant. I roasted some of the baby figs, chutnied some and pickled some:

Can you believe this? A car pulled up and a very tidy, middle aged pair got out, with shiny glasses and ruffles and high waisted beige trews. They wanted to talk to me about God and were Jehovah’s Witnesses! In rural France!!! It turned out I was very busy, so they tootled off, but how surprising!

Another surprise was how gorgeous Toulouse is. I previously associated it with the airport and being very stressed by the motorway, but, the very pink, beating heart is really lovely. We simply wandered around, popping into dark churches to cool down:

The architecture is stunning:

I loved all the views of roads going off to exciting places

and look at this door knocker

I recommend this ice cream Parlour:

and I loved my lime and basil sorbet, which was like a mojito in food form. Mmnnnn

I’ll leave you with this goofy picture of Luna, with one of her favourite humans.

Lime green Madonnas

Its a lazy sunday morning; Liam is out cycling, the rest of the family is still asleep. We’re having a lazy day because… yesterday, we went to Lourdes!!!! Its been on my to do list for a very long time and not because I’m a Catholic (I’m not), but because I love ritual, churches, history. This did not disappoint πŸ˜† 

Fittingly, we stuffed a quick Lidl picnic into our mouths before arriving. Travelling as a pack of five is considerably more expensive than two. For example, six drinks in a caff in Lourdes was €22!!! Fittingly, because Lourdes is, in places, staggeringly grotty. The main drag to the Sanctuary is an explosion of glow in the dark giant rosaries and lime green Madonnas. Its kitch with bells on. And I loved this aspect of it, although, interestingly, didn’t buy anything. We are looking for a religious icon to go in our alcove, but it wasn’t to be found in Lourdes. But what was there was atounding. 

There’s so much bling and pomp, it makes your eyes pop!

We were staggered by the sheer volume of people there…nuns all in white, volunteers pushing people in wheelchairs, delegations from Ireland and Salford…all of a very specific strip of humanity was there and it was very impressive. We followed devout ladies into the sacred grotto, filing past a priest doing a huge outside mass and also touched the smooth, dripping sacred wall. We didn’t see St Bernadette, but we had a lovely, albeit boiling hot day. 

We took ourselves back into Auch for dinner one night. Its such a pretty place and we always manage to find somewhere to park.Look at this artwork on a high up window:

And see how pretty it is at night:

We went back to the same pizza place as on Bastille night, because they are darned fine pizzas and the owner looks like Iggy Pop. 

Its on Rue La Fayette. As a family of non meat eaters, its a great place to eat. My favourite is goats cheese and honey and rocket, drizzled with lemon oil. 

I made jam this week with the hard, yellow plums:

and will be making wild damson gin today:

And the peaches are nearly ready to be munched:

A baby lizard stayed still long enough to be papped:

But what wasn’t good this week was finding out that our new little garden friend, Harry the hairy caterpillar is actually a very dangerous critter, that poses a very real danger to pets and humans 

So serious is this pest, that we need to summon pest control and notify the Marie (our town hall). Torching the nests and cutting down branches has been mentioned. I will keep you informed.

I am about to be presented with beans on toast, so shall sign out for now

A bientot πŸ˜„

Lilac bikini and shades

You’ll remember that last week I mentioned we were heading to Auch to celebrate Bastille Day by watching the fireworks? Parking for free down by the river, we then headed up the magnificent steps, with fountains, dazzling views and a statue of D’Artagnan:

Quite why there is this statue there, I’m not sure, but its very impressive, to be sure. Auch is pretty awesome :

We wandered down to the festival by the river and sat and ate pizza under a sky filled with a very beautiful fireworks display.

The next morning we met lots of classic car enthusiasts and showed our camper off. This is yet another thing on our doorstep, literally down the road at Austin’s Pit Stop CafΓ©, and we are so happy to find this scene is as busy here as back in the Uk.

Finally we made it to the mountains. We climbed out of our plateau and the views became head swivellingly amazing :

This pic is just as we started hitting the foothills (footmountains?) and this one is quite a lot higher:

We rounded a curve in the road and met a family of cows out for a walk

We had lunch at La Mongie. If you have ever wondered what ski resorts are like in the summer, well, they are quite lovely. Lots of people flopped out under cafe umbrellas, loads of energetic walker types, a distant tinkle of cow bells and a vista of vertiginous peaks

The air is very clear and refreshing.. I can’t wait to go again and again 

We finally went to our local municipal pool, again just down the road. Its surrounded by trees and grass and people can spend all day there for 2 Euros. Its spotlessly clean and is obviously at the heart of village life. We went with swimming hats but noone had them on. Liam had a pair of dangerously nearly budgie smuggler trunks in his bag, but again, these didn’t seem required viewing, I mean, wearing. Mr Piscine, the chap in charge, seemed happy to be larging it in his tiny trunks and I couldn’t help admiring a lady who did non stop lengths in a lilac bikini and shades.

Keeping with the watery theme (its been a very hot week), we checked out the gem that is Lac D’Asterac. What a brilliant resource! You can hire kayaks, canoes, get hot and sweaty doing a parcour trail, with self explanatory exercise boards

 There are tables and chairs to eat with friends and family, a park, woods. And even more sunflowers…and again, this joy is just a teeny car drive away.

Sorry, no more photos; it can be a bit hit and miss with internet and whatnot. We had a spectacular thunderstorm. Imagine our eyes as big as saucers as the house shook and flashes as bright as magnesium explosions ricocheted around us! Not for the faint hearted. The cat was nowhere to be seen ..
We met our neighbours down the road and had a really nice night having drinks with them and new friends. Its eternally interesting to find out why people have moved here and beats the hell out of that tired conversation opener of.. ‘so, what do you do for a living?’ I heard someone describe Dordoyne as Dordoyneshire and they said they went to a market and you could only hear braying English voices. Here, we have a presence, but its very much still undisturbed France. For example, the shops shut at 12.30 for lunch, then reopen, sleepily, at 3. Possibly annoying if you are short of, say, a hat, but its utterly charming to me.

G’night, mes amis. Till next week πŸ˜†

Brilliant blue flashes!!

The two French ladies came for tea and cake! Remember, the ladies we met in the cafe down the road? I had made a coffee and walnut cake, thinking it would get eaten, even if the ladies didn’t come and it was waiting in state, under a lacy cloche…and at three pm, their car chugged up the drive. They do a hand gesture here, left hand, fingers flat, like slicing the air, a bit gangsta, which I think means ‘Ooo La la’. We got that a lot, which I guess meant our house is quite large and the garden even larger (stealth boasting πŸ™„)! Also, they said that you can make a tissane out of this tree:

And they were stumped with this tree:

Do, if anyone knows, please let me know.

We had dinner at our neighbour’s house, really nice and checked out their new house, and played with their kitten, Jonah.

We did the epic drive to Toulouse airport to pick Youngest up, who is now with us for the summer. I am now back in Mummy mode, as well as Chatelaine of a French Mas and can be heard bleating ‘pick your towels up off the floor’ and ‘no, I don’t know where your PS4 controller is’.

The piano is now tuned, by a colourful character called Valery, with an artistic flamboyance about him. The accoustics in the house are really good. I’m looking forwards to concerts on our terrace when Eldest arrives.

I’ve finished painting the gite:

Tidied my utility room

Started painting the sitting room, from bright red to butter scotchy tones, in preparation for our new Ikea orange velvet sofas to arrive next Friday…and finally moved into my boudoir bedroom! 

I didn’t get to see the Tour de France this year, but definitely will next year. But I did meet a lot of lovely ladies at The Teapot Cafe, just up the road. It is all vintagey, with red velvet cake and bunting and a boutique rummagey shop next door, and a library. I sat and stitched knitted squares, which are being made into a giant knitted tea cosy

and was so relaxed that I ran over a flower pot and scraped our hire car. More on that story next week 😯.

We had to rescue the cat twice from the roof, till we worked out she had leapt from my bedroom window, executed a bit of a mid air twist, over a vertiginous drop, then plopped above Liam’s office. I now have to keep my shutter closed at a certain angle, to remove temptation out of her way. She has definitely got her climbing mojo back.

I bought this cookbook at the cafe. 

The author lives hereabouts and there are lots of references to this part of France. I have cooked two recipes already, including a clafoutis, using cherry plums from the garden. I have tracked down the address of a healthfood shop in Pavie, just up the road, so can work my way through the cookbook this summer. I guess I could even try to make my own tofu, but, hey, if someone is selling it? The point is, I was aware we might feel isolated, not being meat eaters in rural South West France, but, no. 

Finally, gadget of the week:

Anyone for tennis? I hear you say? No, its an electrified fly swatter! Its brilliant, and you get brilliant blue flashes and a nasty toasty smell. We have been bitten (yes, me too) and bothered to distraction by bitey flies and finally we are fighting back. 

We will be seeing brilliant blue flashes on a huge scale tonight as we head to the firework display at Auch. Its Bastille Day. Lets rain fireworks on the aristos heads!!

Till next week, Γ  bientot πŸ˜„

We are so hot, we have only had choc ices and beer for tea.  Tantalisingly, thunderstorms are promised, but the time frame keeps changing. However, I kid you not, we lit the fire in the front room last Saturday, as there was a decidely British nip in the air:

We were told that the rhythms of the country side would shape our lives and I think it will always be a red-letter day when the sunflowers start to come out

and the ditches are dug and the combine harvesters roar up and down the fields behind our house till darker than dusk

We’ve been busy with house stuff and thanks to our local very handyman, all the packing boxes etc have gone to the local duchetterie ( dump), so we are finally beginning to claim our space. I’m painting the gite a refreshing pale blue and we went to Ikea in Toulouse and loaded up with pots and pans and clocks and fancy stuff. I’ve ordered wood for the winter and thats coming next week. I’ve finished clearing the barn, so we now have fairy lights and table and chairs one side and space for the wood the otherside

We’ve started the laborious process of signing up for our carte vitale and I am in the system now and have had my first blood test and B12 jab. Our new Doctor is hilarious; alternately mystified I didn’t know when my ops were, what dosage I’m on for my meds, horrified that we Brits don’t have polio jabs beyond childhood and annoyed at our lack of French. I am coping with this lack of language skills by throwing myself into situations headlong. Today I not only rang the nurse for my jab, but also went down and had it, in the infermerie next to the fish shop. I am copying a lot too, so if someone says, Goodbye, have a good day, then I smile and wish them the same. If I get stuck, I say I don’t understand and they’ll repeat it, slower, but kindly. 

Our various excursions last weekend were good. We met lots of English folks at Austin’s, the cafe bar just down the road and had a v nice vegetarian meal at the golf club
Hopefully that’s my review.

I have joined an expat Facebook page, with mixed results. I posted my thoughts about starting a local bookgroup, because I miss mine so bad! Here’s my fb picture for the closed group:

I have six ladies already signed up and hopefully a couple more. The issue of having men in the group surfaced, with a rather bullish exchange from a bloke on the fb page. After his v patronising comments re how I was being discriminatory started to stop being funny, I blocked him and set up the closed group. In short, a#&#@*?’s are everywhere. Lesson learned.

Eden is coming out on Monday, can’t wait, then Finn and Janne the week after. And friends are starting to make plans to come out too, and family. I want to show you all everything. Including the sweetest town just down the road, which hasn’t had its heart sucked out by the local supermarket. Its like a lego town, with signs for the florist, the bakery, the bank. Unfortunately Masseube is not in a hurry to reveal its charms and it is disconcerting to have lorries rumble down the high street, inches away from your head. There’s a really dark, goth looking cafe, with blue fairy lights, that needs further investigation though. Becky Drew will investigate.

Next week, Tour de France is in our locale ish and its Bastille Day. We think we’ll go to Auch.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading, and here’s a cheeky picture of Luna

and the hibiscus (?) in my garden

Right, this is another infoblog, so only read it if you want to know how to navigate the healthcare system.

I have Crohn’s Disease and making sure I would be able to get the help I need was a big consideration in our move to France. Our estate agent gave me as much help and reassurance as she could and I did read up as much as I could. I knew we needed to get our carte vitale and then could claim back for up front costs. I also heard that everything is much quicker, no huge waiting lists…We decided to move anyway and then cross our fingers everything would work out.

So before I left, I stockpiled all my medicines: omapraxole, azathioprine, pentasa, humira etc and paid to have my medical notes printed. I also had a letter from my consultant. 

Week 3, we finally surfaced from all the unpacking and made contact with a lovely lady from our estate agency, Manoirs et Maisons, and booked her to come with us to the doctors. She rang ahead, made an appointment, and led us there in her car. My first mistake was to not have gone through all my notes before hand and wittled them down. How dumb of me to assume I could just heave them on a desk and then have them miraculously be comprehendable. I couldn’t even produce a list of my dosages for my meds. If you are reading this, thinking you can just walk into the doctors and it will all be sorted, you need to put in lots of leg work. I definitely understand what the doctor was saying, even though I only have basic french: its my body, I should know what and why is being put into it.

We had basics done, such as height, weight, blood pressure. With the interpreter’s help I managed to explain I needed my vit B12 injection. The doctor in turn, managed to explain I needed a blood test first and she also said she would need to see me again before refering me to the hospital. When I have my carte Vitale, this will make everything happen, I gather. We are seeing our helpful interpreter very soon to sort out our cartes online.

Today I went to have a teste sanguine. I remembered to say hello to everyone in the waiting room. It was a very long wait, but it seems that you are given as long as you need. When I finally got in, we spent a bit of time converting my English meds into French, then my blood test was done…and the results will be back tomorrow! And then a nurse will come to the house to jab me! 

That’s as far as I’ve got. Hope this helps. I’ll let you know what happens next. 

Let’s start with the weather, get it out of the way. Its blowing a gale! I’m so surprised! Everything is rattling and grumbling and the trees are bowing over like Afghan hounds in the wind. And don’t get me started on the rain…its, to put it bluntly, not what I was expecting. Being used to such weather vagaries, being Brits, we simply wonder at it, then ferret for a jumper, grumbling all the while. But I do wonder how the French feel? 

We have met a few now. Monsieur Orange, Monsieur Roofer and my favourite, Monsieur le Chimney Sweep..oh and Monsieur Amazon. They were all very cheery, very dark and very efficient. From that list you can see that we are getting sorted. We have pretty good wifi. If you want to watch Netflix, you have to keep the front door shut though πŸ˜„.

We are dealing with a leaky roof in my bedroom, which I still can’t move into, but it should be soon. But, talking of bedrooms, look at the view from mine this morning:

These fabulous mountains play an eternal game of hide and seek; some days you can literally not see them at all, whereas today, you can even see the snow, which never melts on the Northern slopes, which just happen to be facing our house 😁

Here, you can see the bad weather coming in, brrrrrr.

Monsieur Amazon is bringing us all sorts of stuff:

Its a shredder and chomped up vegetable matter comes out the other end, which is very compostable. Amazon Prime is in operation here, we are delighted to find. Amazon Instant Video is less well served though, hence holding onto Netflix. I am watching much less telly, due to always having stuff to do, like rehemming curtains and cooking delicious, nutritious meals!

I just included that last picture for my friend Bev, who gave me this fabulous apron πŸ˜„

The house is starting to take shape. In this picture you can see the hall, with our friend Nigel Lee’s brilliant garden painting (we love it so much, thanks again) and a painting my Dad did of me, years ago. Do you like our retro phone? Needs wiring in, but should be in use very soon.

And I am finding favorite places to sit:

And the best bit, we are embarking on a social life, courtesy of the Gers English Speaking Community Facebook page. Thanks to them, we are going to a do in town tomorrow organised by the Pompiers and there will be dancing to be had. This fb page looks amazing and already I have been put in touch with a Mr Swimming Pool, who comes highly recommended. I don’t know if I said, but there is a CafΓ©/Bar at the end of our teeny road, called Austin’s and we’re going there tonight for a music night and…we’re going to Chez Charlotte on Sunday for lunch because they are holding a Vegetarian and Vegan weekend. Totally brilliant, I say!!

Luna the cat has progressed to using her cat flap and spends most of the night hunting, and who can blame her? Here’s a cheeky smile from her

It occurred to me I haven’t shown you any pictures of the gite. Its not finished, for instance I am going to paint it a gorgeous colour, but gives you an idea of how snuggly it is:

In here, you can see a beautiful landscape painting by the artist Amanda Addison of a landscape in Gers (thanks, Amanda, it is perfect in this room). You want to see the bedroom? Ok, follow me…

Again, this room needs a big dollop of colour and fabulousness, but its nothing to what it will be like when its finished. 

Anyway, till my next blog, take care of yourself xxxx

This is an infoblog, so feel free to skip it if you don’t have a cat and need to figure out how to bring it to France. I would have found this very useful; I hope you do too.

You’ll know about getting your cat chipped, jabbed and issued with a pet passport and you would do well to look on the DEFRA website for up to date info.

Right, your options are : fly, drive or ferry. We opted for ferry, mainly because we live in the South West of France and its a long drive with a queasy cat and I was worried about knocking the cat out with heavy duty sedatives as they don’t agree with every cat. So, there are a limited number of pet friendly cabins on Brittany Ferries so, as soon as you know you are on the move, get booking. We, in fact, organised our completion date around the ferry, just to keep everything focused on making it easier for an already scared cat. 

So, on moving day, I cleared a bedroom, loaded it up with litter tray, food, water and comfy stuff and shut Luna in there, slipping in to be with her as much as possible

As you can see, she looks comfy, but wary of all the commotion outside.

I bought these two products from Amazon:

I reckon they helped. So, on the day of departure, we popped Luna into her new carrier, with a zip down side for extra room, and set off in our VW campervan.

We’re smiling, but Luna was wailing. After a while, she just settled, but still looking edgy. So, when we got to Portsmouth, you are directed into a pet owner lane, a queue up with all the dog owners, who talked loudly about their pooches as they took them for a last walk before the ferry.

So, then action stations. You are passed a round hand held device which you pass over your cat, to read the micro chip, then show their passport, are given a sticker for the van and drive onto the ferry!!

You are allowed up to your room before other passengers. We were laden down with cat stuff, including cat litter tray liners ( what a good idea) and her food etc. Once in our pet friendly cabin, we finally let her out. Ziiiiiippppp..   nothing. She stayed in her travel basket for a bit, but thats fine. We made sure she knew where everything was and nipped out on deck for a celebratory drink:

It was a strange feeling to be quaffing, knowing Luna was feeling v confused in the cabin, so we didn’t stay away long. Eventually Luna seemed to relax, and even licked the free dog bone that was in her welcome pack. Clearly, cats don’t travel that much on ferries. By the way, Luna only vocalised in greeting, so didn’t cry all night, as we had feared. We managed to get out a fair bit, all slept well

This made it all worthwhile, to be able to snuggle with the cat. It was a bit confused at docking time. A steward tapped on the door and appeared to be saying we had to muster with the dogs on deck 10. We smiled, nodded, and then simply carried her out as hand luggage. 

The other end, arriving at Bilbao, we simply showed passports, and were free to go. Simples. Ok, the drive through Spain was waaaayyy longer than we had calculated. It took 7 hours! At one point, we stopped at a services and let Luna out of her carrier, offered her food, water, etc. On balance, we probably didn’t need to do this, as she just hunkered down in her carrier, with a grim sort of ‘let’s get this over’ with expression. 

So, I had planned that she would have a designated room in our new house and she would gently adjust to her new surroundings by staying in there for a few days. In the end, we simply carried her carrier with us into the garden, unzipped her box, let her come out. I seem to remember she shot under a bush for a huge toilet stop then we then walked around the garden together, with her sniffing and trotting next to us and chirruping. It was magical. That first night she had her litter tray handy and she simply slept on my bed, which is what she does. Ok, she slithered out of the window and balanced precariously on a ledge but she came back in, of her own volition. 

So, last night was another milestone. We finally fixed her cat flap so she can now come and go as she pleases. I think she hunted most of the night, but was snuggled up on the bed in the morning, so she has clearly sussed her new world out.

And that is how you bring your cat to France! I hope this has been useful.πŸ˜†