Sunday 5 June 2011

Les Vacances de Monsieur L


J'etais en France! Bof! Sorry I didn't mention it. I never publicise my travels, least of all online, lest the legions of burglars who follow this blog decide to pay me a visit in the hope that Mrs L was last out of the house and charged with locking up. Even if I'm not going away anywhere, occasionally I just stop blogging for a few days - my doozra if you like. Combine that with sometimes not opening the curtains for days on end, and frankly it becomes a lottery if you're shadily inclined. Please don't be offended, I'm not singling out my blog readership for special treatment, I hardly tell anyone. Generally the only people who know are the ones who come in to feed the four Guard Crocodiles with really small, really moreish meals.

Anyway, I'm back, and Chateau L is intact, so back to the daily grind. The first order of business is to say that I am now enormous. More enormous. Why France is not full of obese people is beyond me. Au contraire it is mainly full of very thin people, a ratio which has increased now that I have left. The food is amazing, I could eat it all day. In fact that is largely what I did, as it rained for pretty much the entire time whilst blowing a gale. With birding out of the equation, that left eating. Oh, and drinking. Lucky then that I was staying at a mineral water plant, and not a vineyard where you could just keep a tab and help yourself to bottles....

Oh, wait.

The Evian grows in small bunches on minature trees which are planted in rows

Holidays are about having fun, and although I had dutifully prepared a list of target birds, places to go for family walks with no other motives whatsoever, in the end we barely went anywhere, content to stay in our wonderful gite and chomp our way through prodigious quantities of cheese, salami, ham, tartes, pains au chocolats and so forth, all washed down with lashings of mineral water.

Famille L doing what it does best

We were in the south-west, within spitting distance of the Pyrennees, staying at a place in Minervois country (and there was I thinking Evian was Swiss, who knew?). We stayed in a converted mill surrounded by vineyards, and drank only the locally-produced water. Despite the crappy weather, it was superb. We didn't get up in the mornings, and we went to bed early - some proper and well-deserved battery recharging. Other than eating, we honestly didn't do a great deal. We explored the property and terrorised its insect residents, we played a lot of cricket, we did a lot of drawing, and listened to a lot of music. Oh, and we ate a lot, did I mention that? A quick visit to a local swimming pool one day (where they demanded I wear Speedos, not an experience I am keen to repeat; neither, I suspect, are the residents of Narbonne keen), an afternoon trip to Carcassonne another. We set our barrier low, and this turned out to be the perfect height.

In the few moments that we were able to sit outside, a number of birds were observed. Some were even photographed. Top billing went to a Short-toed Eagle that cruised almost directly overhead one day, followed closely by a Honey Buzzard. Hoopoes were seen daily, as were a resident pair of Woodchat Shrikes - the local mineral water is organically produced, which no doubt suits them just fine. Rock Sparrows, a pair of Black Redstarts, and numerous Swifts nested in the various buildings, Nightingales were everywhere, at least six highly vocal birds in a small area, but all predictably invisible. We never saw the Cuckoos either, but they were belting it out from all around, and on the occasional calmer night, a Nightjar churred from the opposite hillside. I saw a Sardinian Warbler once, whilst sat drinking Rosé, er I mean water, but it was one of the target birds, so very chuffed.

The insect life was where it was at this holiday though. Some superb moths and butterflies, including quite a few Hummingbird Hawkmoths, immense bush crickets, gigantic wasps and hornets, and vast armies of black ants moving in trails across the lawn and patio. The kids were enthralled, which is how it should be. I remember similar family holidays where at a similar age I was quite content to just observe these ants all day long. And poke sticks into their nests obviously.

We came back via Chablis, another area noted for mineral water production, and to say that the car sat snugly on the road on the way back to the coast is a vast understatement. I have been happily unloading bottles for almost the whole day. Indeed one has already been emptied.....Anyhow, normal service will shortly be resumed. That means Brown birds, brown butterflies, small unidentifiable brown moths.

PS I am kidding about the birds. It's June.

1 comment:

  1. "and well-deserved battery recharging"

    Have Zoe and your children been working hard recently?