The best laid plans…

… can sometimes go awry!!

Last Friday, you received two posts almost at the same time.   You might have guessed that one was posted in error?  That’s what can happen when I try to do too many things at the same time!! 🙂  I was in the midst of preparing the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) for an association I am a member of – the Institut de l’Ancienne Abbaye de Saint-Chinian.  

The AGM was that day, and it turned out to be a great success – 60 members came along to the meeting!  The official part was followed by an aperitif dinatoire, drinks with substantial nibbles!  In case you are wondering, the association organises the music festival in Saint-Chinian (this year from July 23 to 29, 2018), along with other concerts through the year.  You can sign up to become a member via the form on the association’s website – do join us, it’s a worthwhile cause!

I’ll be back next Friday with another full post – it’ll be about food!! 😉

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Follow the yellow line!

My very first post on this blog was entitled, “Do you enjoy walking?” That was back in March 2012 – nearly six years ago!!  I still enjoy walking a great deal, and I thought I would share a recent walk with you.  The walk is called Las Clapas, the Occitan word for the stone piles which line the path in places.  The stones were cleared from the fields and vineyards.

A leaflet which gives the route of the walk is available from the tourist office in Saint-Chinian.  Here is a link to the IGN map, which also shows the route.  The official starting point for the walk is in the main square of Saint-Chinian, but I cheated a little.  I drove up the hill and started from the car park near the windmill!  The views over the village and the valley are gorgeous from up there!

As I left the car park, I saw this tree trunk with a bright yellow marking, indicating a marked walk – hence the title of this post!

To start with, the path climbs a little – and not long after I’d seen the yellow mark, I came across another indicator:

Turns out that I wasn’t going to follow the yellow line after all – the colour of the Las Clapas walk markers is blue actually.  Ho hum 🙂

After about 10 minutes of walking, I was rewarded with a beautiful view across to the windmill.

I’ve walked this route many times over the years and in all seasons – each time is different, and the look of the landscape changes throughout the year.  Where there is a sea of green leaves in summer, in winter you see the lined up trunks of the vine plants and their bare branches – that is if they’ve not been pruned yet.

The plants in the picture below have had their shoots clipped back already:

This olive tree stood right next to an almond tree.  And the first flowers were already open on the almond tree – in January!!

I found a blue marker – does it look as though it might have been yellow once??  Or is that the lichen on the stone?

The path goes past someone’s garden – it is immaculately kept and looks more like a park than a garden.

A little farther along is this stand of cypress trees:

And farther still was this quirky entrance to somebody’s plot of land!  It looks as though the owner is into recycling!

Here’s another picture of a vineyard – beautifully kept and all ready for spring!

And here is what you can do with some of the many stones – if you have the patience and a steady hand!  🙂

The last picture was taken on one of my previous walks, when the skies were not as blue as on my last walk.  I’ll confess that I did not complete the Las Clapas walk in its entirety last time!  There’s a way to shorten it, if you continue straight on at the point where the map is marked with 235 above the blue line.  Either way, it’s a beautiful walk, and once you are familiar with the map and the paths, you won’t need to rely on the markings!

This is just one of the many spectacular walks around Saint-Chinian – you can experience them yourself during a stay in Saint-Chinian*!

*For accommodation visit www.midihideaways.com

 

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A Christmas dip

No, this post is not about food!!  It’s about taking a dip in the sea at Christmas!  🙂

A tradition of winter swimming has grown along the Languedoc coast.  Several seaside towns mark the end of the year or the beginning of a new one with a swim.  Valras Plage, near Beziers, calls it the Bain de Noel, the Christmas swim.

In Valras, the tradition was started over 30 years ago by a few enthusiasts, who went swimming throughout the year.  On December 23, 2017, over 300 people came to take a dip in the sea.  The water temperature was 8 degrees Celsius, and as you’ll see from the photographs, the sun was shining!

People wore all kinds of fancy costumes to mark the occasion:

The life guards had come dressed up as Santa’s helpers:

Santa was waiting for the bathers on a barge:

After a brief warm up, the bathers made a dash for the water!!  I saw some people jump in head first, whilst others went in up to their knees.  I’m not sure that I would have been that brave!  The water must have felt freezing cold!!

The video below will give you a good idea of the fun everyone had!  After the dip, there was hot mulled wine for all the bathers!!  🙂

Would you go for a Christmas swim in the sea?  Or would you prefer a stroll along the beach?  Or….?

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What’s going on

It’s time for an update on upcoming events in the area – there is much to look forward to!!

Limoux Carnival – 7 January 2018 to 18 March 2018

The good people of Limoux take their carnival very seriously.  Different groups have the run of the central square every Saturday and Sunday during the carnival period.  It’s always an enjoyable festival to visit – I have previously written about it here, and you can find the full programme of this year’s events via this link.

Fete du Mimosa, Roquebrun – 11 February 2018

The Fete du Mimosa is a must if you are in the area – a great fun fete!  I have visited many times and I’ve written about it here.

Vinisud 2018, Montpellier – 18 to 20 February 2018

This international wine fair is aimed at professionals, and showcases the region’s output. 1,500 exhibitors show 26,000 product lines – lots of wine to work through!!  You can find details of the fair here.

Fete du Cochon et du Terroir, Saint-Pons-de-Thomieres – 25 February 2018

I think you would have a good time at this annual event in Saint-Pons, which I have visited on a number of occasions, and written about previously.  The format has changed somewhat since my article, but I imagine that the fete will still be very enjoyable!

Truffle Markets in the area – until end February 2018

The truffle harvest in the area continues into February, and visiting a truffle market is very enjoyable.  You can find a full list of dates and locations via this link.  And if you want to know what it is like to visit a truffle market, have a look at the post I wrote about my visit to one such market a little while ago.

Escale a Sete – 27 March to 2 April 2018

Once again the tall ships will be mooring up at Sete for what promises to be an amazing week, celebrating the 350 years of the port of Sete.  I wrote about the tall ships in March 2014 – find the post here.   You can find information about this year’s programme via this link.

Journees Europeennes des Metiers d´Art, all over France/Europe– 6 to 8 April 2018

The European Artistic Craft Days are held every year on the first weekend in April.  They give the public a chance to see expert craft makers in action.  A few years ago, I visited a workshop where verre mousseline is made – see for yourself here.  You can find the full programme of this year’s event on the official French website.

Guided visits of the Savonnerie carpet workshops, Lodeve – Thursdays and Fridays throughout the year

The Savonnerie workshops continue a tradition of carpet-making in France which dates back centuries.  I’ve visited the workshops in Lodeve a number of times, and wrote a post a little while back.  If you want to visit, make sure you reserve in advance.  Full details are on this website.

Grande Deballage, Pezenas – 6 May 2018

This event is not to be missed if you are into flea markets and antiques.  There will be in excess of 150 stalls, selling all kinds of “stuff”!!

World Rugby U20 Championship 2018, Beziers, Narbonne, Perpignan – 30 May to 17 June 2018

World Rugby has announced that France will host the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2018 with matches being played in Béziers, Perpignan and Narbonne.  The five match days will take place on 30 May, 3 June, 7 June, 12 June and 17 June.  More details on this website.

Festival de Carcassonne – 17  to 30 July 2018

The Carcassonne festival is one of the biggest in the area, attracting stars such as Elton John (a few years ago).  This year’s star-studded line-up includes Robert Plant, Beth Ditto, A-Ha (remember them??) and Simple Minds.  You can find the full programme here.

 

 

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Bonne annee – and about time too!

It’s high time that I should write another post – but first I’d like to wish you all bonne année – happy new year!!  In France, we can wish one another a happy new year until the end of January, and there is much of that going on right now all over the country!

It is customary to exchange wishes whenever one first meets a relative, friend, neighbour or acquaintance in the new year.  Usually the meilleurs vœux (best wishes) are accompanied by bonne santé (good health), since good health is one of the most precious things in life.

Most of the time you’d kiss the person you are exchanging wishes with – even if you don’t usually kiss them during the rest of the year: one kiss on the right and another on the left cheek, to go with the wishes.

Daffodils flowering in January in Saint-Chinian – a welcome sight in the new year!

Then there are the official vœux – in a lot of villages there are ceremonies which are organised by the town councils, where the mayor and the councillors wish the inhabitants a happy new year, and talk about their plans and projects for the coming year.  And of course there will be drinks and nibbles after the official speeches!  In Saint-Chinian, this ceremony is on the day I am writing this post.

A new year offers all kinds of opportunities.  My resolution was to start up my daily yoga practice, and so far I’ve been able to stick with it.  It’s not always easy to find the time, but where there’s a will there’s a spare half hour or so!! 🙂  And the benefits are great!!

My main new year’s goal – and the reason for the slightly longer-than-planned break from blogging – was the re-design and re-launch of my German language website.  If you’re curious, you can find it here.  It’s been interesting work and I’ve had fun re-doing that website, but I’m glad that I’ve more or less completed it now!

I hope you’ve had a great start to the new year!!  Have you made any new year’s resolutions?  And if you did, have you managed to keep them??

I leave you with a picture of some mimosa blossoms.  The trees in and around Saint-Chinian have started to flower already – another beautiful welcome to the new year from mother nature!!

Mimosa blossoms in Saint-Chinian

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Season’s Greetings

As the festive season is upon us, I’d like to wish you all a wonderful time over the holidays!  I’ll be taking a few weeks off – look out for my next post in 2018.  Until then, stay healthy and happy!

Olive grove in the snow