Update for spring in France

March 27, 2015 by · Comments Off on Update for spring in France
Filed under: France 

Spring in France is so beautiful

Well spring in France has arrived in France and everything is coming out in blossom. Cherrie and apple trees especially with glorious pink and brilliant white.

Of course this does mean I am now having to mow the considerable grounds with our ride on mower. Naturally after a winter sojourn it didn’t want to start! So after charging the flat battery it made a horrible whining sound. With some trepidation I decided to have a look to see what was wrong myself. After much swearing I managed to dismantle some of the parts to find that a plastic gear that sits on top of the starter motor had sheared away. So a visit to our local mower parts shop in Gourdon armed with a print out from the parts manual and part number plus a photo of the part on my phone with the expectations of a long wait whilst the part was ordered. But lo and behold the store man disappeared behind the counter and produced a nice shiny new one for the princely sum of two euros sixty cents – bargain. However fitting was not as easy as removing, but after some skin scraping we now have a working mower.

I have been planning the vegetable garden for this year and will repeat the successful tomatoes and chillies as they grow really well here. Not so successful with the courgettes last year but our friends Paul and Kerrie borrowed our trailer and brought it back full of horse manure (as they have two horses). This I hope will stimulate the courgettes!

Now just got to tidy up around the gardens and re-varnish all the outside furniture then paint inside the barn where necessary etc etc. Oh and service all the bikes…..

So not much to do then?

Spring in France

Regular Cycling Guests

February 25, 2015 by · Comments Off on Regular Cycling Guests
Filed under: France 

Why do we get so many returning cycling guests?

OK so we are not a big multi-national holiday company with thousands of places for holidays.

We run only six tours per year now each with a maximum of eight guests per tour (although more could be accommodated if persuaded) so it’s not hard to get to know our guests pretty well and in fact we’d probably count most of them as friends when they leave our cycling base for their journey home.

Roses at Mas de flory

Roses at Mas de flory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each year about a quarter of our biking guests are returning for their second cycling tour with us normally from the previous year, but some come and stay with us every year. Our record is three times in one year, we must be doing something right! We always thought nobody would want to come back again, how wrong we were.
We do vary the routes for some returning guests but most want to repeat their previous routes with us as they say they can take in more of the sites for the second time and enjoy the rides. Sometimes they bring their friends with them to share their experiences and their favourite routes.

Of course it maybe that biking has absolutely nothing to do with it and it’s just our sparkling wit and repartee or perhaps its Aileen’s food?
Some of our guests have booked a holiday with us just because they like the reviews about our food, and are not really cyclists – who can blame them as all our guests are extremely complimentary and forever want to award Aileen a Michelin star and buy her non-existent cook book!

Cheescake for dessert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few extracts about our food:

“The four course five star dinners prepared by “Chef” Aileen were outstanding in quality and variety.”

“Saying we had great food and lots of fun would be an understatement–it was simply fantastic and outstanding.”

“sipping a chilled glass of rose prior to sitting down to a sumptuous feast prepared by Aileen and skilfully served by John.”

“Aileen was a most accomplished chef, and prepared phenomenal 4-course meals every night!”

Click on the link “Guest Reviews” above to see more about Aileen’s food and our cycling holiday base.

Well I hope you understand why so many travellers return to us, see this year?

Frequent Cycling Guests

Plan d’eau, Degagnac

February 17, 2015 by · Comments Off on Plan d’eau, Degagnac
Filed under: France 

Le Plan d’eau (lake) at Degagnac

A ‘Plan d’eau’ in France refers mainly to a local lake. They are most often formed by damming a stream until the lake is the required size and then regulating the flow out of the lake at the downstream end. This means that there is a constant flow of fresh water into the lake, making it suitable for all sorts of leisure activities that can be enjoyed by the local community.

Degagnac Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each village/town plan d’eau varies in size. Generally, the larger the population served, the larger the lake. Our local commune, Degagnac, has a population about six hundred, so the lake here is quite small, being roughly shaped as a rectangle 250m by 120m and has been formed by damming the “ruisseau de Palaz”, which translated simply means “the Palaz stream”.

Degagnac Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Degagnac lake has a footpath that goes all the way around the outside, and it’s a pleasant walk of just less than a kilometre. There is a parking area adjacent to a picnic spot with a few well-maintained benches. Local people tell us that the lake was once popular for swimming in.

Degagnac Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing is possible at the Degagnac Lake between 14 March and 20 September. Trout is the major catch and a license, which in 2015 costs 73 euros permits you to catch 10 trout per day with 2 rods. lake is stocked with 3 types of trout – the ‘truite arc en ciel’ which is rainbow trout, the truite fario, or brown trout and the ‘omble de fontaine’, which translates as brook trout. There is a length limit of 20cm on the first and 23cm on the other two so I would assume this means that you can take your catch home with you to eat.

Degagnac Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I visited the lake on a lovely sunny afternoon in January, and I was the only visitor – well, apart from the robin I photographed and all the other wildlife!

Robin at Degagnac Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more details about Degagnac visit this website (in French)

 

Plan d’eau, Degagnac

L’Abbaye Nouvelle (New Abbey)

February 12, 2015 by · Comments Off on L’Abbaye Nouvelle (New Abbey)
Filed under: Living in Rural France 

L’Abbaye Nouvelle near Mas de Flory

It was such a beautiful sunny afternoon on Tuesday that I decided to get on my bike and visit a local historic monument, the 13th Century L’Abbaye Nouvelle. It’s about 5km from Mas de Flory to the Abbey and most of the trip is made on wooded back roads, with just a short stretch of main road at Pont Carral. There is a footpath to the Abbey, but it’s a bit bumpy for my hybrid!

L'Abbee NouvelleL’Abbaye Nouvelle

The official name of the Abbey is St Mary of Gourdon, but it’s always been known as the New Abbey, because the Cistercian monks who built the Abbey between 1242 and 1272 had already had a failed attempt at building an abbey a few miles away back in 1150!

L’Abbaye Nouvelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The abbey was abandoned during the Hundred Years War (1337 to 1453). It was used again from the late 15th century up to 1650, when it was secularised after the last monks left. The monastery on the site is in ruins, mostly down to the fact that much of the stonework has been removed (stolen?) for use in other local buildings. The church, though, is still (partially) intact and is used regularly for local parish services held in the 2 bays left out of the original 3.

L’Abbaye Nouvelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An association to protect and restore the site was formed in 1978 and the site was classified as an ‘historical monument’ in 1991. Since then a lot of work has been carried out to make safe the structure and restore parts of the walls. There is also a ‘lower room’ which is a vault that extends under the length of the church building. The ‘lower room’ is now fully functional and has been used as a theatre, for musical events and even for marriage ceremonies. Gary Brooker, of Procol Harum fame, performed there in 2010.

 

L’Abbaye Nouvelle near Mas de Flory

Birds at Mas de Flory

January 29, 2015 by · Comments Off on Birds at Mas de Flory
Filed under: France 

Wild Birds at Mas de Flory

Here at Mas de Flory there is plenty of birdlife. We have oak woods at the bottom of our field so, as you would expect, there are wood pigeons, crows and cuckoos all making themselves known at different seasons. Magpies are also numerous.

Pigeonnieres, or pigeon houses are numerous in the region and we have a few in the immediate vicinity of Mas de Flory. These can be standalone or constructed as part of the main house. Pigeons were (are?) considered to be a delicacy to eat. Their droppings make useful fertiliser and it’s used for vines. The wooded hillsides just beyond our fields used to be covered with vines, so it’s no surprise to find the pigeon houses here.

Birds at Mas de Flory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the garden we have great tits, sparrows and the occasional robin. All these are happy to find their own food during the summer months. We have lots of shrubs, bushes and trees in our gardens, which means there’s no shortage of insects and grubs to feed on.

Birds at Mas de Flory

Birds at Mas de Flory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In winter we have feeders hung in trees at a number of locations, so we can watch the birds feeding. It’s the great tits that are the most active at the feeders. In the feeders we have a mixture of nuts and fat balls contained in a mesh to stop the contents falling out. The birds are able to poke their beaks through the mesh. Sometimes there can be as many as 4 birds on the feeder at the same time. At other times one bird can see off all the competition! Great tits are hoarders, so their nature drives them to collect as much as they can, which is why they seem to be constantly on the go from dawn to dusk, flitting from one feeder to another, dropping off their booty at their store on the way. The sparrows rarely make an attempt to use the feeders – they are happier collecting whatever falls on the ground below!

Birds at Mas de Flory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Birds at Mas de Flory

Recipe for Chilled, Pea Cucumber & Mint Soup

January 24, 2015 by · Comments Off on Recipe for Chilled, Pea Cucumber & Mint Soup
Filed under: France 

Pea cucumber & mint soup

Chilled pea mint & cucumber soup

Chilled pea mint & cucumber soup

Due to public demand Aileen has written her recipe below for her chilled pea cucumber & mint soup. Our bike guests really enjoy this after a warm day in the saddle.

Recipe for Mas de Flory Chilled Pea, Cucumber & Mint Soup

Serves 4-6

3 spring onions (scallions)

1 clove of garlic

250 g frozen petits pois

400 ml light chicken stock

½ cucumber

Bunch of fresh mint, chives, parsley

200 ml creamy natural yogurt

Olive oil, butter

Salt, pepper, squeeze of lemon juice

Soften the finely chopped spring onions and garlic in the olive oil and butter for 5 mins.

Add the frozen peas and heat through

Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 – 8 minutes then set aside to cool.

Blitz the soup with the chopped cucumber and fresh herbs in a liquidizer.

Add the natural yogurt and blitz briefly again.

Taste and season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Chill for at least 2 – 3 hours.

To serve, blitz soup again with several ice cubes.

Serve with parmesan croutons and a swirl of natural yogurt.

Parmesan croutons:

Mix small cubes of day old bread with a large spoonful of grated parmesan cheese and 2 tblspns of olive oil. Cook at 200 deg C for 10 mins until golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

Chilled Pea, Cucumber & Mint Soup

Hybrid bikes at our Cycling Center

January 22, 2015 by · Comments Off on Hybrid bikes at our Cycling Center
Filed under: France, Lot Cycling holidays 

What are Hybrid bikes?

Here at Lot Cycling Holidays we use hybrid bikes for our tours. We keep a range of sizes and styles so that we can cater for the differing weights and heights of our guests. Why do we use hybrid bikes? Hybrids are a cross between road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes. As such they offer the best package of ease of use, comfort and stability to provide the optimum riding experience for our guests and to cope with the demands of the riding conditions found on our tours.

The hybrid bikes we use have these characteristics: * The straight adjustable handlebars and upright riding position associated with mountain bikes, to provide a stress free ride. * A light weight, medium size wheels (between road and mountain bike sizes) and smooth tyres for road use, which is the best combination for casual road use. * A set of gears that falls between the high gearing and close ratios of road bikes aimed at keeping up maximum speeds, and the low gearing of mountain bikes that allows for steep climbs and difficult conditions. This means our guests can have the pleasure of cruising the quiet country lanes at reasonable speeds and cope easily with the occasional gentle incline. *

Hybrids allow for the fitting of our carriers – front with transparent waterproof map sections and rear carriers with detachable bags for snacks, cameras, locks, tools, and any other personal items needed on the tour. * Our bikes also have quick release wheels and fully adjustable gel saddles.

Giant Hybrid Bikes

Giant Hybrid Bike

 

Before our guests venture out on their first tour we spend time with each rider and their chosen bike to ensure:

* All the necessary adjustments are made to the saddle and the handlebar and brake lever and gear change control positions to suit the rider and their riding style

* Guests are familiar with the operation of the controls, especially the gears and brakes. This is particularly important for the brakes, as in the UK the right lever controls the front brake (and left the rear) and in Europe the right controls the rear brake (and left the front)

For more about Hybrid Bikes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_bicycle

Hybrid bikes

The Museum of Augustins at Toulouse

January 16, 2015 by · Comments Off on The Museum of Augustins at Toulouse
Filed under: France 

A Visit to the Museum of Augustins

The final part of my visit to the Museum of Augustins involved the Augustins Church. This Southern Gothic building was started in 1317. It suffered in the fire of Toulouse in 1463, after which the vaulted roof was completed and the external roofing applied. The convent was eventually consecrated in 1504. Unfortunately, in 1550 the belfry was struck by lightning, resulting in the loss of the spire and some upper floors, which have not been rebuilt. The church was first established as a museum in 1793 after the French Revolution in order to protect Toulousian masterpieces. It is one of the oldest museums in France, opening shortly after the Louvre in Paris.

Church  Interior looking eastward

Interior looking eastward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interior looking westward

Interior looking westward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the regular display items, an exhibition of some works by Benjamin Constant (also known as Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant), was being held. Constant was born in Paris in 1845 died in 1902. The exhibition covered his earlier work, which was heavily influenced by his visit to Morocco in 1872. The contemporary description of this subject matter was ‘Oriental’.

Benjamin Constant later changed his focus to portrait painting, and a number of these are held in local government and national collections in the UK, where Constant enjoyed the sponsorship of the aristocracy, including Queen Alexandra, whose portrait he painted in 1901.

Christie’s past sales archive reveals that prices for the 24 of Benjamin Constant’s works sold by them between 1994 and 2014 vary widely, from “The Spanish Dancers” – sold in 2003 for £306, to “Harem Women” – sold in 2007 for $409,000.

La favorite d’emir

La favorite d’emir (1879) – on loan from the U.S. National Gallery of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Caid marocain Tahamy (1883)

La Caid marocain Tahamy (1883)

 

At the Bazaar

At the Bazaar

 

Musee des Augustins at Toulouse

The Museum of Augustins, Toulouse Continued

January 12, 2015 by · Comments Off on The Museum of Augustins, Toulouse Continued
Filed under: France 

A Visit to the  Toulouse Museum Augustins

The Darcy/Viollet-le-Duc Wing, which has 3 main exhibition areas, was completed in 1901.

On the ground floor of the Museum of Augustins is a magnificent collection of 12th century Romanesque Sculpture.

The collection of sculptures originate from three 12th century religious buildings in Toulouse.

Colourful pillars and suspended light fittings are used to show off the sculptures to great effect. The fittings contrast strongly with the grey stone, but perhaps surprisingly does not detract from the strong presence of the sculptures themselves. When I walked down the stairs and entered the doors of the room it definitely had the wow effect.

Museum of Augustins

Museum of Augustins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second area is the Darcy staircase, which houses some striking 19th century sculptures. The natural light in this area is supplemented by spotlights placed to illuminate the statues. The mixture of stone and the flat red bricks used extensively in Toulousian architecture looks simply amazing in this context.

The Darcy Staircase

The Darcy Staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The work by Paris artist Eugene Thivier is called “Le Cauchemar” (The Nightmare). It is sculpted in marble and dates from 1894.

 The Nightmare

The Nightmare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Hunting Nymph” is by a Toulousian artist, Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguiere. It is also sculpted in marble and was completed in 1888.

The Hunting Nymph

The Hunting Nymph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third exhibition area of the Museum of Augustins holds the Paintings Galleries, itself split into 3 areas. The paintings range from the 17th to the 20th centuries and include works by major French artists, like Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec as well as some by Dutch artists, including Bruegel.

The Painting Section

The Painting Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom left in the Red Room picture is “Alexander’s Generosity” by Jerome-Martin Langlois, 1819. At bottom right is “Moulay Abd-er-Rahman, Sultan of Morocco Leaving the Palace in Meknès with his Entourage” by Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroi, 1845. It’s called his ‘monumental’ work, as it’s 3.4m wide and 3.77m tall.

From the white room, we have “Avant le Deluge” by Cornelis Corneliszoon, 1616 and also a sculpture by a Toulousian artist, Francois Lucas, dated 1777.

A Visit to a Toulouse Museum Continued

Musee des Augustins, Toulouse

January 6, 2015 by · Comments Off on Musee des Augustins, Toulouse
Filed under: France 

A Visit to a Toulouse Museum

Our cycling visitors often come to us via Toulouse, which has daily flights connecting with Bristol, London Heathrow and Paris amongst many other destinations. It also has direct TGV (high speed train) and motorway links to Paris (in the North) and Barcelona (in the South).

Toulouse is an interesting city, worth taking time out to explore, so we suggest (if appropriate) that our guests to break their journey to us with a night or two in the city. I spent a weekend in Toulouse a few weeks ago.

One of the highlights of my trip to Toulouse was a visit to the Musee des Augustins. I hadn’t planned the museum visit. The building caught my eye when I took a walk around the centre of Toulouse. I’d just emerged from the nearby Darty shop (selling TVs, computers, etc.) at Esquirol, so it was quite a contrast. The museum dates back to the 14 and 15 century, when it was built as a monastery. It became a museum in 1793 and the building has been extensively restored. It has a gallery which houses 12th century Romanesque sculpture, 14th and 15th century gothic sculpture galleries, a church with 15th to 17th century paintings and a gallery with 17th to 20th century paintings.

Outside the Toulouse Museum

Outside the Toulouse Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The museum has no restrictions on photography and video (I asked!), which I found very refreshing. It was an ideal opportunity to test out my new camera.

The Church

The Church at Musee des Augustins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 3 main parts to the museum, arranged around a courtyard with a wall on the 4th side. The courtyard is laid out with herbs and shrubs and has a covered walkway all round. Along one walkway is arranged a collection of 13th and 14th century gargoyles. It was very quiet in the courtyard compared with the hustle and bustle of the Toulouse streets on the other side of the brick wall.

Gargoyles at Musee des Augustins

Gargoyles at Musee des Augustins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Courtyard at Musee des Augustins

The Courtyard at Musee des Augustins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Visit to a Toulouse Musuem

Next Page »

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com