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:

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

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