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September, 2009:

Royal with cheese

A load of arse

Row of Rumps.

Off to the Marche aux Bestiaux in Parthenay this afternoon for a quick mooch around the annual foire de elevage et gastronomie. We’ve been in previous years and it was always good. Slightly less going on this year. Fewer animals, exhibitors. The Gastronomy element was more or less totally absent. Still, we did enjoy it and I guess the downturn is reflected in all elements of life. No taking away from the dedication of the farmers and their pride and passion in their animals. Hundreds of them turned out in their sunday best and the animals were superb.

cool as moo

Cow eyes

Halfway around the fair and a minor bustle approaches. It’s quite possibly the next president of France! She’s the current president of the department but perhaps better known for losing out to President Sarkozy in the 2007 election.

Ségolène Royal

Ségolène Royal

An inordinate number of hangers on surrounded her but she did bring a whiff of glamour to proceedings. A much needed whiff as everywhere else had the odour of cows, straw and horse-piss. I don’t think I saw many other ladies in a couture outfit and high heels. Certainly none that I took a bunch of paparazzi snaps of anyway!

A small group of photographs featuring dreadlocked donkeys, cute cows and the like are on flickr, as usual.

Chuckingham Palace

A Bellebouche first, longtime blog reader and frequent commenter “Elderly Aunt” is visiting with us at the moment and it only seems fitting to offer up a guest blogger spot! Words and pictures by Pat Pembridge.

I am here in France for my third holiday with Adrian and Joan, so different to my home in Manchester.

I always have a great time and get taken on really good days out.  This last weekend we visited 8 Chateaux and a wonderful garden belonging to a mad artist, something not to be missed.

Monday Joan and I spent pottering in the garden, which I love, and got quite a lot done.  Adrian started on a new project,  read on…….

They needed a new house (Ahem…. palace) for their ever growing brood of chicks.  The master builder set to work (Adrian, not me!!!) and got the construction under way.  Day one, the frames were built and beautifully painted by Joan, I just sat looking on, as visitors do!!!!   having the odd drink and snack provided by Joan, lovely.

Caged Beast

Homage to the Louvre

Day two saw the construction work start in earnest, a really hot day as well, I made sure I had a hat to protect me from the sun while I was lazing around!!   Adrian added chicken wire to the frames then put them all together.

Next came a wire roof panel, then a wooden one for shelter.

Almost finished

The new outdoors chick rearing palace takes shape.

Time for the occupants to try it out.

Dancing Kitteh in the cage

Kitteh tests the new accommadations for her up and coming prey

First came Pompey,  the kitten, who would have liked to have helped with the building but was confined to the house for chicken herding, she is top of the sheep cats!!!

New Occupants

Second batch of chicks are rightfully enthroned.

Finally the rightful owners the 2 week old chicks, they seemed to like it straight away and soon settled in for their first night outside.

A successful project for the erstwhile poultry farmers Adrian and Joan.

Abundance breeds extravagence

We’ve been enjoying a bountiful harvest for a couple of months and the tomato crop is in full flow now. Basket loads of toms come up to the kitchen every couple of days and we’re getting the Bellebouche food factory into full production mode. (more…)

“Down to me, thankyou Clive.”

Bummed to discover this afternoon that Keith Floyd passed away yesterday. Back in 2006 when I was pimping one of his recipes I wrote somthing along the lines of…

“If it wasn’t for Floyd on France there wouldn’t be a Fod in France”


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Thouet valley nature expedition

In a fit of unbridled enthusiasm we signed up for an organised nature bicycle ride at the Lac Du Cebron.  A stunning autumnal morning was unfolding and we arrived ready for a jaunty cycle ride. Our first stop down the road towards St. Loup Lamaire was an old Lavoire. Fed by a natural spring and used for bathing/washing for a few centuries it is currently alive with critters. We found water boatmen, baby newts, snails, a ‘water bee’ (new to me, it looked like a bee!) and this bad boy.

Leopard frog silhouette

Leopard Frog

The descent from the lake down to the river level was exhilirating. I don’t think I’ve ever been that fast on a bicycle before. All the cool kids have now got disc brakes on their bikes. Not us – we relied on a death-grip and rubber. Managed to stay on the bike. Coming out of St. Loup we meandered alongside the river for a while passing through lots of fairly typical chemins.

Leafy Chemin

Chemin

The valley seems so much greener down at river level. We’re on the edge of the river valley here in Bellebouche and after a long hot dry summer everything has the consistency of ryvita.

dappled valley

Gates

A rocky trail descent took us down to one of the ancient crossings of the Thouet. These stepping stones will be submerged in the spring. I’m guessing the river level is about 50+cm lower now at the end of the season. I think there are maybe six crossings like this over the river in this area

Giant steps are what you take

A huge weir was about 7M upstream of the crossing. I’m so going back in the winter. It’ll be a little hair raising to stand on the crossing with that weir in full flow. Can’t wait.

Gravestone sluicegate

The Weir was feeding a mill race for an old mill building. The stepping stone on the crossing was an old gravestone – I couldn’t see a name just “Anno 1616”. Strange.

A strenuous climb again up to the highest point on the east bank of the valley and as we stopped to gather breath… the wildlife could sense the signs. The whiff of mortal human flesh was in the air.

Buzzards circled over head and it wasn't even lunchtime

Another thrilling descent before we cross the river again and make our way up the other side. I plotted an approximate map in google maps. 11.5km.

Thouars Valley route

Thanks to Loic for organising and Alain for hanging around while the Escargot’s brought up the rear!

Montgolfieres – Thouars Hot Air Balloon Festival.

What a spectacle. The first annual Hot Air Balloon festival held in Thouars last weekend on the 4th, 5th and 6th September.

balloons at thouars

We went along on the evening of the 5th September to watch the launch of 25 Balloons. It was a lovely evening, a little scattered cloud, very light winds and plenty of sunshine. I got some lovely shots of the balloons going up but it was just impossible to capture what a sky full of hot air ballons looks like – I hope the snap above gives you a little flavour.

It’s very hard to guess at numbers but there must have been 3000+ people turned out to see the spectacle. It was superb.

A small collection of vintage cars on hand in a separate display. I got a few interesting pictures and tried a couple of things I don’t normally do (Black and White and wide angle are not normally my thing – particularly in the same snap!)

BW-Pug-306

We had to laugh, it seemed like every third person was wearing an ‘Organisation’ T-shirt. Exactly none of these were to be seen at the close of proceedings when everyone tried to leave the car park. Chaos reigned when the hapless helpers shut the main exit to the road and sent everyone off without rhyme or reason down a dirt track into the backwoods of Thouars. Oh well.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

PGL adventure holidays bite back! As a small girl (from the age of 11 on) Joan went off on a number of adventure holidays – character forming stuff and they’ve helped shape the woman fearless amazonian warrior princess she is today.  Some of her social soireés here have extended to some medal winning pistol shooting and a couple of bouts of archery – a bit of a sharp shooter!

So, this years birthday present is… a bow and arrow set! Not cowboy and indian stuff mind you, this gear is a little bit fearsome. (more…)

“Kids – Don’t Try This At Home!”

Handstanding Cops

Handstanding Cops

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