Monday, 18 November 2013

Adventures in the Sidobre

Last weekend was another long weekend this time due to Armistice Day. We had planned to go walking in the Pyrenees with friends but the weather forecast was again not good so instead we all decided to go to the Tarn area and go for a walk in the Sidobre. The Sidobre is well known for its impressive natural rock formations - similar to the moeraki boulders in Otago, New Zealand. We drove up to the Tarn in convoy and enjoyed the beautiful Autumn colours en route.

We headed towards a lake in the area for lunch and got out of the car to discover that it was freezing cold - only an hour and a quarter north of Toulouse but about 8 degrees colder! We looked around for a walking track and got onto what looked like some sort of track. It was a lovely walk through the autumn trees and over a very rickety bridge but after only ten minutes we popped out onto the road. We knew that the next rock formations were not far away but did not fancy walking along the road as it was very busy. We all found it a bit odd that there did not seem to be any marked walking tracks linking the sights. So we decided to walk back to the car and drive. The next thing to look at was the Rivieres ou chaos (river of boulders) This was a very impressive sight but I found it a bit disconcerting standing on huge boulders hearing rushing water under my feet. I guess it has been like that for thousands of years so the chance of me dislodging a boulder and falling into the depths was reasonably remote.

Penelope half way down the river of boulders.

Jasper and Silas at the bottom of the boulders.

Standing among some of the huge rocks at the bottom of the river.

We headed back up to the cars and Kari and John decided to head home but we thought we would go and have a look at some more of the rocks. We drove a bit further and came to the La Peyro Clabado which was a very large boulder balanced on a much smaller boulder.

We drove a bit further along but very quickly the road got very narrow and we were soon juggling for space along with walkers and cyclists. We parked the car and I jumped out to see if there was anything else significant to look at (the kids were a bit sick of getting in and out of the car) but after walking for a bit still hadn't got to the Roc de l'Oie and decided that maybe this was the walking track we had been looking for!

We had a great day adventuring but I think the tourism board could do a bit more in marking walkways as there were heaps of people out and about and the sights could easily be linked by a nice track. We came across a great picnic area where the mountain bike race started from but again it was not marked on our map and there appeared to be no walking tracks off it as everyone was walking on the roads.

We took a different road home and once again were in awe of the French countryside and the random little bastide villages sitting on top of hills. What this area lacks in decent walkways they make up for in gorgeous little towns!!

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Pot au Feu

Today we are making a traditional French stew called a pot au feu.

These are the veggies!

Here is everything that has to fit in the pot. We even got beef tail!

It's a tight squeeze! Now we let it simmer for around 3 hours, maybe even a little more. Tonight, we will have a French dinner!

Next we decided to make our favourite apple crumble!

Tess mixing the crumble.

The work space. We've been cooking a lot here :)

Working hard!

The crumble is ready to be spread, yum!

I love apple crumble!!!

Spreading the crumble on the apples.

Looking good!

Tonight dinner is going to be delicious, and I can't wait :)

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Chasing the sun to Spain

It was All Saints Day in France on Friday so we decided that it would be nice to go away for the long weekend. We have been keen to go to San Sebastián on the Spanish Atlantic coast for a while now but the weather forecast was not great. So instead we decided to head down the coast south of Barcelona. Our main aim for the weekend away was for some relaxation and to play on the beach - not too much sightseeing as we had done a lot of that lately. The Costa Brava is very built up and even though we had really enjoyed our previous holidays in Spain we were really wanting to get somewhere a bit more laid back and not as touristy. We picked the town of Sitges which sounded a bit more relaxed but then found a great apartment a bit further north in the beach town of Casteldeffels. We left early Friday morning and got to our apartment on the beach just after 2pm.

Our apartment is in the white building.

Casteldeffels is just a long beach with low rise apartments, houses and restaurants. It has a great board walk right along the beach and we enjoyed using some of the bikes at the hotel and biking along it. There are not many shops just a few guys selling their rip off Adidas goods and Prada bags. We didn't even manage to find shop to buy a fridge magnet!

The castle of Casteldeffels.

It was quite windy when we arrived so we decided to drive around to Sitges to have a look and to have some dinner.

The drive around the coast was gorgeous, apart from the ugly concert factory!

Why would the decide to build such an ugly factory right in the national park?

We managed to get a great park right on the waterfront and walked up to the gorgeous cathedral.

It was getting cold so after a wander around we decided to get some dinner.
We found a great Mexican place right on the esplanade and it was lovely to have some spicy food. Sitges is a really lovely Spanish town with cobbled streets and interesting narrow little alleyways and lots of lovely shops.

It got dark quite early so we decided to head back to the apartment. The carpark was a bit tricky to get out of especially since someone had parked illegally in front of us jamming us in. Luckily the guy behind us was just parking his car so we managed to explain to him in sign language that we needed him to back up a bit so we could get out.

The next day was beautiful and sunny and while James went for a bike ride the kids and I headed down to the beach. One of the best things about Spain is that children are well catered for and there are great playgrounds everywhere! We even found monkey bars much to Hannah's delight!!

Being made into mermaids!

We decided to go out for lunch and picked one of the places along the beachfront. At first glance it looked great but once we were seated it was more expensive then we realised and James had a view over my shoulder to the patio where they kept all the old summer furniture - not great. Our waiter spoke no English which was fine except we could not make our gluten free needs understood. We ordered the kids menus of chicken and chips and were surprised when pasta came out. We then realised that the kids menu included an entree of pasta then chicken and chips so we had to reorder their food. When it did come the chicken was covered in breadcrumbs - oh dear not really a success on the gluten free front! On the plus side James and my food was really nice. I had yummy mussels and then James and I shared a delicious paella.

We then went back to the apartment to relax. I went out for a bike ride just as the sun was setting!

After dinner we decided to make the most of the warm weather and went out for a walk and a drink. We were the only people in the bar which is just as well as the kids were hyped and a bit silly but funnily enough this little outing was one of the highlights of our trip for the kids! It was also the best Sangria James and I have had so far!

Woke up to another stunning day and James went off on his bike while I did a bit of packing before heading back down to the beach. The great thing about our hotel was that the kids could play on the beach and I could see them from our apartment - perfect! The kids invented a game called no rules frisbee and amazingly enough it didn't end in tears or tantrums!

Posing on the beach.

Playing in the surf.

We thought we should probably get in a bit of sightseeing so decided to stop at the city of Girona on the way home for lunch. It is a beautiful medieval Spanish city with lots of steps, archways and very old cobbled streets.

What an amazing facade!

A perfect end to a perfect weekend away - the traffic going back into Toulouse wasn't even too bad.

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