Category: Travel Diaries & Blog (page 1 of 4)

Nouvelle Aquitaine

Moulin Lauga

The unintended but wonderful consequence of our new life choice!

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Moulin Lauga is so small its not even in our map book. Without specific instructions we would never have even passed though this charming little place.

A few months ago whilst at Gites La Colombiere we were introduced to Mark and Jess. Similar to us, they had cast aside the UK way of life in favour of an extended 6 month honeymoon in France that just kept on giving.

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Whilst in the Pyrenees we decided to drop them a line and see if they fancied catching up as we knew they were renting in the area.

Queue a dinner invite and copious of booze. We rocked up for a simply stunning evening on their terrace.

Home made pizza with home made nettle pesto (to die for seriously!!) the time flew by. Salad from the garden and homemade elder-flower fizz. Even watching the electrical storm gather on the hills. It was just perfect!

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Their home is so cute, in the rafters of the old creperie its got everything you need with views that are frankly inspiring.

They are a very creative pair and they had made their mark on the place and are living their dream. Learning the french way of life away from the hordes of tourists. We were their first English conversation in weeks!

After a lovely evening together we continued the visit with a hike the following day with their rescue dog Zelda along (or should I say leading) the adventure up into the hills opposite.

They have been there for only 2 months but are already so much a part of the community it was so lovely to hear all their stories about the history and locals – it made us feel a part of it too!

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We have so much love for this pair and so much about their life choice resonates with us.

They gave us such a thoughtful gift when we left – a new hobby/ business venture for Mark. We will share more about that later! 🙂

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The unintended but wonderful consequence of our new life choice is the amazing people we are meeting along the way!

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Thank you Jessica Chambers and Mark Chambers we loved every second!

Port- Barcares

Not far from the Spanish boarder is this seaside resort complete with funfairs and icecream. Uber busy and reminded me a little of Blackpool in the UK but warmer!

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Our overnight stop was just up the coast next to the HUGE inland lake called Etang de Leucate ou de Salses where you will find a much calmer approach to life with man made reefs out into the lake holding candyfloss coloured properties most with moorings as part of the deal.

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The aire was about €12 a night including electric but my goodness was it chocked full! Easily over 100 motor homes parked up so not especially tranquil but did afford easy access to the beach and jet-skis for hire.

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Icecream for lunch and an explore on the bikes with a dip in the sea was a lovely change to the mountains that have been our playground for the past couple of weeks. They remained in our sights though as the peaks are still visible from the beach.

The Lunch invite to Tourouzelle

So you may have seen me mention a few weeks back that a number of you from this wonderful group had reached out and invited us to come and visit you to see your little pieces of paradise you have decided to call home.Wendy Anderson is one of those amazing people! She joined the group only a few weeks ago and immediately got in touch to invite us round for lunch or dinner OR BOTH!

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Wendy and her husband Simon are just 9 weeks into their new life in France but spent a number of years researching and visiting and have settled in to a lovely village near Homps and the Canal du midi called Tourouzelle.

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We really didn’t know what to expect and had only exchanged a few messages in advance but we arrived and immediately felt relaxed in their amazing home.Traditional French homes are so very different to British homes. Everything from layout to soft furnishings and theirs has some stunning features.Our lunch, a BBQ in the court yard, was delicious! We were certainly treated!

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The courses just kept coming and the conversation flowed. Lunch, for us anyways, does not tend to last for close to 5 hours but the time literally flew by and we felt like we were in the company of good friends. An added bonus was to meet Simon’s daughter who is about the start secondary school in the UK and Hannah who is a US student currently studying at St Andrews in Scotland and is spending her summer doing “Workaways”.We learned all about their lives and plans for the property and future business ideas (which sound amazing and I can’t wait to share more details about them with you!)There are so many things I could tell you about this experience but this would turn into a super long post! Instead I want to focus on some key pieces of information that we have taken away from our lovey visit.

  1. Networks are super important and language does not need to be a barrier. Wendy recently needed to visit the vet with their dog Loki but without transport of her own (the car was back in the UK) she started to walk to the next town. A local from the village spotted her on the road and offered her a lift and then returned after the appointment to take her home again. Before that day only passing pleasantries had occurred with the occasional Bonjour – they are now firm friends.
  2. Patience is key over here. Things do not happen immediately and you need to persevere sometimes thinking about outside of the box to get the job done. Like the fact that their boiler broke almost immediately and they have created an ingenious hot water solution on the terrace using old water bottles in the midday sun.
  3. Have a vision but be ready to modify along the way. On paper their new home does not tick all their original “boxes” but in reality the home and the village found them and needs them. They are a team.
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Thank you so much to Wendy and Simon for sharing their lives with us for the afternoon! We loved every second and can’t wait to come back!

Minerve

North West of Narbonne – A stunning location found and documented AND my personal debut into the world of YouTube.

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Check out the linky below to see the must watch video and please do let me have your feedback! Its my first shot at “vlogging”so still lots to learn but its a start! You can now subscribe to us on Youtube! Exciting times.
https://youtu.be/JmGlUP_Cdtg

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So having successfully navigated to Narbonne and handing back our boat we decamped back into the bus, said goodbye to our temporary boat neighbours and set off for our next location.

Now it seams that motorhome aires are a little few and far between near the canal du midi – certainly outside of the major towns (which we tend to avoid). Our primary goal was to find water as we had drained down the system ahead of picking up the boat. Stagnating water in hot conditions is a recipe for trouble.

Campercontact told us the nearest location was 16km away so we set off towards Minerve little did we appreciate what we would find. I am going to (again) break with tradition here and let the images do the talking.

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This place literally blew my mind. We rounded the corner on the approach perhaps 3 miles out and this vast gorge came into view. I had zero idea that terrain of this nature existed in this part of France and it felt like being transported to a whole new part of the world.

Check it out – you will most certainly not be disappointed!**edit – video information error…the gorge was NOT formed by a glacier 50 million years ago! It WAS however formed by a river called Brian (I kid you not) 50 million years ago!

Limoux

Just South of Carcassonne you can find this unexpected delight.Being totally honest…we were not supposed to end up here!

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We were planning to stay in Carcassonne BUT the Aire was absolutely full with a queue to get in.The next nearest place (with water etc and not costing the earth!) was Limoux and I didn’t hold out much hope given the comments I was reading on the Motorhome app suggested it was a little run down and unloved!

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They couldn’t have been more wrong! It was charming! A lovely main square surrounded by restaurants and bars and the Aude River running right through the centre. Its no “Carcassonne” so don’t go there expecting that level of grandeur but its got its own authenticity and feels much more like the “real” France with its slightly weathered (but beautiful) appearance and lack of foreign tourists.

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Also looks like a cracking fishing spot too for our angler friends!The Aire was in a great position for exploring right next to the river and totally free which is a bonus! A boulongerie only 5 mins walk away and it was nice and quiet. Added bonus was the camper opposite having two fluffy ginger cats that enjoyed exploring other peoples campers!

Montech Water Slope

Calling all engineering enthusiasts! Or those interested in big machines and cool uses!

Some of you may have seen this massive construction on the TV show called abandoned engineering or Rick Stein’s French Odyssey.

Outside of Montech you can find the “Water slope”

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It was built in 1979 to replace a chain of 5 locks to make this section of the waterway much quicker to navigate.

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Moving at 4.5km an hour (driven by two diesel electric locomotive engines each with 1,000 horsepower) it moves 1,500m (cubed) of water along a 125 meter channel vertically 13.5 meters. Pushing a wedge of water (containing a boat) to the top (or bottom).

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Apparently it takes 6 minutes to complete the journey and can hold boats up to 250 tonnes!

Sadly it been out of service since 2009 due to a massive engine failure that saw the locomotives slide backwards down the slope!

Very cool and worth a stop to see!

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Condom Marche Gourmand

So you rock up at a little Aire just outside of Condom and visit the little campsite next door to pay your “rent” only to discover that there will be a Marche Gourmand happening tonight in the town under the Cathedral. Live music, lots of different foods and wines to choose from…

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You walk (quickly) back to the bus to inform the husband that tonight’s dinner of Bolognese which earlier in the day sounded so appetising now sounds rather rubbish! We shall partake in the revelry and eat copious amounts of fine food. Pasta can wait for another night!

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The location was just stunning! Right on the steps of the cathedral.

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We had limited directions but we literally found it using our noses! The smells were glorious! The party was in full swing with hundreds of people lined up on the trestle tables (this bit never seems to get old to us…every town & village has a ready supply for events just like this!).

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Food from around the world was on offer and we jumped right in! Muscles and calamari for me and duck for Dan. The atmosphere was so special with the mariachi band doing the rounds.The best bit was when Dan returned with his duck with all of his pocket money remaining! A wonderful lady in the queue with him had treated him to dinner! Would not accept anything for it either! A random strangers generosity humbled us! We tried to find her with a gift of a bottle of wine but were unsuccessful so shall pay the kind gesture forwards to a random stranger we meet one day!

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LOVE FRANCE!

Barbotan-les-thermes

Sometimes in the morning when we wake up and are trying to work out where to go today I just pick a place on the map that jumps out at me. Today was one of those days!

What a gem of a place!

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Architecturally its quite a juxtaposition with a very obviously old and new part. Both beautiful but for very different reasons.

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The gardens in the centre held some amazing plants and flowers.

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We also got to get up close and personal with a French spa for the first time. Its so odd!! No photos inside but some of the literature to show you how it works.

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UK spas are all about chilling and reading books while having treatments etc…(at least in my experience they are!) French spas are all about total health benefits. They offered courses in nutrition and posture plus under water bikes and a labyrinth of water based walk ways to move around in. No where to laze away the day but lots of activity to get the most out of your immersion in the vitality rich waters!

Seems this place was super popular and not vastly expensive to get in! Every Wednesday at 3.30 you can also pay €3 for a guided tour to see what its all about!

Labastide-d’Armagnac

Not really a Bastide anymore! Only one small portion of wall left standing but a simply stunning central square around the Church with restaurants and cafes spilling out into it.

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We love a good bastide or castle so this place was a must visit for us! Lots of cool curiosity shops around and many artists selling their wares it had a really creative feeling.

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We spend a couple of hours just wondering the streets absorbing it all. This area of France really is beautiful! Located all around you can find handy signs written in both French and English explaining the building or its purpose.

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Our favourite bit was the explanation about the gully between two properties to allow water to run off and to protect from fires moving from one house to another…in our humble opinion the space still seemed far too small!

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An added bonus was that the local boulonger was open at lunch time! We celebrated with a cheese and ham croissant (we are very easy to please!!

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The local Marie has very thoughtfully provided a fully serviced free aire for motorhomes at the bottom of the village AND even more interesting than that there is even a place to park and graze your horse should you be travelling on 4 legs instead of 4 wheels!

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