Tag Archive: lourdes

Dew covered shrooms

I’m going to start this week’s blog with a funny story.

We finally had our first airbnb guest to stay in the gite and all was going well: nice chatting over a glass of wine in the front garden. Then we took our guest through to the front door of the gite, only to see that Luna- the- cat had left a big fat juicy mouse/doormouse right outside! Nice 😵

I am a planner and generally have thought of every outcome long before it happens. I had carefully organised a week of short and long trips for our family visitors last week but hadn’t even considered illness as a possibility. Thanks to a sneezy lady on the plane, both our guests went down with a nasty coldy bug, so we did quite a bit of quiet times sitting in our fabulous garden, drinking wine, which was really nice. Before the bug struck we did visit Lourdes again and this time found an amazing chapel thats mostly underground! Closely resembling the inside of a brutalist concrete whale, this chapel was enormous

and was hung with huge banners of saints of all descriptions:

I peered more closely at the huge mosaics outside the cathedral and realised that all the eyes are huge and fathomless, just like the cat’s, before she kills:

I remembered to take a pic of the glorious tackiness of the gift shops and this sums them up:

We did Seissan market with our guests and spent a fortune on the dried fruit and olives stall:

It all looked so unctious, as Nigella would say! We wore our special ‘going to market’ outfits:

We went out for dinner at an auberge in Sainte Blancard. It was all so pretty and promising:

 This is my review:

I really wanted to enjoy my evening here; I understand how important it is to give good reviews wherever possible to help support local businesses. This part of rural France is not overrun with tourists, it has to be said.

Our welcome was warm and the chat about the menu was informative and very helpful. All vegetarian​ options were pointed out, with emphasis on this directed at the two mature ladies in our party, who are the biggest carnivores going! 

We had plentiful bread and butter, breadsticks and tapenade to munch on while we waited for our starters. These were fine: prawn cocktail and soup are good, if unadventurous options. The mains reflected the diverse tastes of our party. The two carnivores had duck and steak, the husband and I had salmon and our son had pizza. So, my salmon was faultless, moist, well seasoned. Where it started to unravel for me was that I realised everything else on my plate was only so so. I am a chip fanatic; these chips were unremarkable in everyway. I had chosen salad. What arrived was lettuce, grated carrot, grated celeriac and tomato. It could have been better. I tried the vegetables on my husband’s plate, thinking I would have preferred them. But, courgettes, tomatoes and onion, heavily flavoured with thyme just doesn’t cut it either. Every other house you drive past in this part of France has an explosive vegetable garden. Plants grow so well here and this was not reflected on our plates.

Now the problems really started. We all finished and sat and waited for our plates to be cleared. We waited.. and waited….and waited…and in the end started to stack the plates ourselves. Oh, before you start to think that the restaurant was really busy, it wasn’t. There was only one other table of diners in there. They all seemed to be family members related to the owners, which is fine, but, hey, we were paying customers. After the plate clearing debacle puddings came pretty swiftly and it was fine to mix and match what we had.

We finished and sat politely and waited for our plates to be cleared…and waited… and waited.. and in the end had to cough and wave and holler to ask for the bill.

When we left, the chef/owner didn’t even look up from his chat with his mum to say thanks and goodbye, even though they were right next to us. We trooped out into the night feeling full but not uplifted.

I snapped a pic of Eden with a snazzy suit of armour right outside the restaurant:

I got to do lots of gardening this week and hacked back this tree, which turns out to be a bay tree!!

I woke up early one morning, the cat caught another mouse, and saw this beautiful cloud on the corn field:

and I thought you might like this photo of shaggy ink caps that popped up in our garden, which are indeed edible before they go all drippy and inky

We have had all manner of funghi growing in our garden and pharmacists here are trained to tell you which ones are edible or not. You simply walk into your chemist with a basket of dew covered shrooms and find out which will kill you and which won’t. 😬

Eden and I went on a trip to Les Grottes du Médous, near to the mountains. The start to our visit was inauspicious; the ticket guy simply swiveled one eye up towards us and kept the other one down on his hunting magazine. Next to him was a plate of gnawed bones, which was hopefully the remains of his lunch. Nervously we waited outside for something/someone to appear. In the distance we could see a little old lady sweeping up autumn leaves.

Then, up bounced Monsieur le Tour Guide and everything got better. He looked just like a French Willy Wonka and my abiding memory is of his laugh that cascaded out of him at any opportunity and filled the caverns with light! He conducted the whole tour in french but made sure we understood and were involved in his jokes. We saw rock formations in the shape of dragons and Buddha’s and marvelled at underground lakes and bats. We even got to go on a boat ( ‘The Love Boat haaah ha ha’). I can’t show you a picture, as photos aren’t permitted, but it was pretty brilliant and worth a visit.

Now, the absolute highlight of our week, again without pictures, sorry. We went to Aquensis spa in Bagnères de Bigorre and it was delicious!!! The design is brilliant, reminiscent of a Viking longship. Wood, water, lights and frothy bubbles everywhere. The pool downstairs is a triumph, with currents, sprays, fountains and jacuzzis and the life guard looks like he is in a dj booth and controlled all the watery delights. There are jacuzzis and saunas on the roof, a pool that plays underwater jazz and…a hamman! This is a wierd experience: totally steamed up, you are drawn to the sound of running water and eventually find a cool grotto and sink into it beneath the billowing steam and just wallow there in relief. There’s hot mint tea on tap, just to add that finishing touch of luxury.

Thats all my news and how was your week?


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 😆 

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 😄