I’ve always wanted to accompany the annual movement of the animals to their summer pastures in the Pyrenees. This is a long tradition in this area, in the Aude, but more particularly the Ariege. This weekend we had the chance to walk with half a dozen donkeys to their pastures up in the Pays de Sault at more than 900 metres above sea level.
Every few months an open day programme allows people to visit local farms, meet the farmers, take a tour of their land, get up close to the animals, see how the farm machinery works, eat a meal with others on the property, and buy the produce fresh from the farm gate.
Here I describe my run-walk outing with a local companion into the spectacular hills above Laval.
Mr D, a neighbour of ours, generously offered to show me some of the harder-to-find tracks up into the hills above Laval. I had already done a fair amount of exploring myself but had not found the route I guessed would be there. I sought a track, or at least a marked route, connecting Laval with Quillan in the Pyrenees in southern France. Laval is not far from Quillan as the crow flies and my guess was that there would be in the hills an alternative to the 6 km on the flat road route. Continue reading
Another winter day in paradise begins. I’ll start with a morning jog – that is sure to set me up for a good day. There’s a cold wind so I’ll seek a sheltered route in the bush. I’ll explore up the track across the creek. I want to know how far up the hill it goes. The map shows the track going most of the way towards the ridge. If it continues to the ridge, or if I can bush-bash the last bit, that will be my shortest route to town. I get about 50 metres from the front door when a gunshot echoes around. Then another. I slow, then stop. It’s Wednesday: hunting day. Continue reading
Yesterday we celebrated our first Christmas as a family in our very own house in France, three and a half years after we first saw and fell in love with it. After so long, I can hardly believe it’s true, but here we are and all the hard work, tears and tantrums, and the relentless bureaucracy has been worth it.
It has been a long journey, with more turbulence than a long-haul flight over the Urals, but, touch wood, we will soon own a house in France.
For once, we were finally able to use a sled. A toboggan. Being a Wednesday, I had school in the morning. Naturally. It was boring. But while I was at school, Dad went out to a large sports shop near Carcassonne, called Decathlon. They have so many things there, including sleds. Dad got two sleds. One big, red one with brakes, and one small green one that looks a bit like a spade. When I got home from school, we made sandwiches, and Dad, Nicholas and I went into the snow.
This week I left Stephen to enjoy the bracing walk and scramble up to the arche perdue while I looked after the toddler at home, and beavered away on my book, but last week, as school had not quite started back, I persuaded the two older boys to join me for the weekly Monday full-day walk.
Prospects looked good for a sunny day once the mist lifted, but it was the iciest morning so far, for the walk around the hills between St Ferriol and St Just-le-Bezu.
Tomos would have loved some of the drinking water, but the spout was completely plugged with ice.
Today I join the local walking group on their walk up to L’Arche Perdue, the hole in the rock above Maury. Last month I wrote about that remarkable rock formation and my hope to visit it. This is the walk that was scheduled for last month but cancelled due to high winds. Today is also windy but we do it anyway. I drive to the meeting point at Maury, half-way between Quillan and the Mediterranean coast. We have friends at Maury, very close to the meeting point, so going there brings back happy memories of pit stops and a summer evening barbecue three years ago. Continue reading
This afternoon Tom and I go exploring up the hill above Quillan’s old castle. Despite the sunshine, I wear many layers of clothing. You can’t be too careful at this time of year. Tom is more lightly dressed. More sensibly dressed, as it turns out.
We start by going up Rampe du Chateau. This leads us onto Rue de Bitrague. Now we go offroad.
Chateau de Quillan