Category Archives: Uncategorized

A walk up to those cliffs above Quillan

At Quillan three years ago I explored many of the tracks in the hills surrounding the town. On my very first foray into a forested mountain area I felt a little on edge, not knowing for sure what dangers I might encounter. Hans Christian Anderson tales had taught me from a young age that Europe’s forests were to be feared. Should I watch out for snakes? What were the chances of encountering a wolf? And what of the people in these remote hills? As time went on, and reassured by a little internet research, I became more confident and saw that the only risks were familiar ones: getting lost or breaking an ankle. On this current visit, the winter weather adds the risk of hypothermia. Continue reading

A walk above Ginole

Nicholas and I went for a walk on the tracks above the tiny village Ginole, France. It was warm for the time of year, so Nicholas was happy to leave the extra layers of clothing in our bag. We stopped to look for vultures a few times but saw none. We saw a long-legged spider walking up the track and we followed it some way. Nicholas was careful to not step on it.

The village bell donged 12 times at 11am (no adjustment from summer time to winter time, apparently), then repeated that two minutes later. I counted the chimes and Nicholas stamped his foot to the rhythm.

The track was crumbly and steep in places so we held hands.

A very pleasant morning. Thanks, Nicholas.

Pruning of the plane trees 

On our first trip to Quillan we arrived to winter bare plane trees and watched as they budded and bloomed over the first weeks of Spring. This time we arrived as they were at their fullest glory, and watched as they were pruned back to bare trunks. The square remains as beautiful as I remember – veiled or otherwise.

  The Place de la Republique in all its shady, green-fringed loveliness at Summer’s close. Continue reading

A French education 

Tomos went off to school this morning with a face like thunder. It’s his second week and reality of French school life is setting in.


The lady on crossing patrol saw his face and raised her eyebrows: ‘What’s eating him?’ was the gist of her remark. ‘Oh, he doesn’t particularly want to go this morning,” I replied. “He’s a little anxious’. ‘Why, does he have worries?” she asked.

Yes, he has a few worries. Going to school is one thing. Plenty of kids have trouble just with that. Going to school in a different country, in a different system, in a different language, where you have no friends, is another entirely.

But Tomos is up for it. Whether or not he is worried about it, whether or not he grumbles about it, he still puts one foot in front of another, and goes anyway. I admire his resilience, and his goodwill, which is enabling us to have this second experience of living in France.

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Passing time at the Cafe du Fleuve

One of my favourite pastimes is people watching. Whether at home or while travelling, I like nothing more than to sit in a cafe and while away several hours over a drink, watching the world go by. These days I spend more time in towns and cities anywhere in the world on this activity than on typical sightseeing, and don’t regret it for a minute. Last time I was in Paris on my own I didn’t visit a single monument or major sight in two days but wandered and cafe hopped. It was my most memorable visit to Paris yet.

We are spoilt for choice in Quillan with various cafes, bars and restaurants scattered across the town, including two cafes and a bar in the place de la Repuplique alone. I frequent both cafes, depending on the time of day, my mood and the position of the sun, so this is not to say the others are not good, but my personal favourite remains the Fleuve.

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A place to call home

For the next few months we will call a small piece of French soil, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, home. A four-storey stone house, including bed and breakfast, it is a very different proposition to our  1890s Victorian villa in Wellington, New Zealand.

  The house sits under the watchful eye of the centuries-old Chateau de Quillan.

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