Paget's Big Adventure
13th Jan 2012 - 26th Jan 2012
Underneath the stars
Friday 13th, probably not the most auspicious day to choose to go snow shoeing by moonlight but who’s superstitious? Time for a quick drink or two to warm our cockles before we set off – Oliver and Uta (a resident German couple) seemed to know exactly where there was a bar selling Jaegermeister on tap, served in a test tube in a glass of Monster – the girls settled for vin chaud and Bill for a Guinness (only €8 a pint….)
Once dark, our guide took the 6 of us and another couple further up the mountain above St Lary. Perfectly still and silent apart from the crunching of our snow shoes, we headed into the valley beneath the most amazing vault of stars, more clearly seen when we switched off our head torches. The piste bashers were busy up above, their huge headlights moving slowly across the darkness, the only man-made feature in view. Hip flasks are the must-have accessory for these excursions, maybe even a St Bernard too.
Dinner was in a toastily warm Ciderie – all you can drink local cider delivered from massive barrels – catch the brew in your glass from 10 feet away to aerate it – a wasteful method but fun, and meant we didn’t drink too much. And the meal – duck of course, accompanied by a hearty garbure (rustic stew).
Started my training for the London Marathon, just 3 months away. Mixed reviews so far in terms of my fitness, but no complaints about the ever-increasing circles I have the choice of here, virtually deserted lanes apart from the odd English person cleaning their car on Sundays.
We have been pottering about here for almost 4 months now. The maps and camping guides that used to be by our bed have been replaced by ‘The Backyard Poultry Book’ and ‘The Practical Gardening Encyclopaedia’. Chickenopolis is now complete and the duck pond has been christened. All the birds are now totally free range which is great. The dogs were slightly bemused at first but have behaved themselves impeccably.
The older hens look fatter and healthier than when they arrived but are not the most prolific layers in the world, Amy and the magic chicks are doing well and are barely chicks anymore, and the ducks are a joy – worried that Bill ‘grim reaper’ Neave is getting far too attached to them, even despite the fact that they made short work of his newly sprouting spinach. Quite different behaviour from hens, they waddle round together, noisily chewing the grass and just as noisily poohing everywhere (we knew they’d ventured into the hall one day from this telltale sign!). They eat for England (or France) and will happily follow you anywhere in the hope of grub. Bought four 5 week old ducklings this week and they were integrated immediately, unlike what happens with their hen-pecking cousins. Their little legs are still weak though and one of them keeps collapsing into the grass for a quick rest before he’s off again. Apparently they are Barbary (Muscovy) ducks, more similar to geese, so will be interesting to see what they look like when fully grown.
Still chilly here and we have resorted to changing in the lounge like real peasants. Bill has invested in some flannelette old man pyjamas and I am still resisting the housecoat/cardigan/thick stocking ensemble sported by the local ladies. It’s only a matter of time…
|13th Jan 2012 Cider-drinking Basque style|
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