• Daily life,  Salies de Bearn,  Things to do

    Market day in Salies the Bearn

    Probably one of my favourite markets so far is the Thursday morning market in Salies de Bearn. If it’s a day with sunshine, I can’t think of a better place to spend a couple of leisurely hours. I love it because it has an Indian food stall, lots of delicious cheese and pates and vegetables, but also an overpriced antique seller and various other goodies. We usually end up buying some fruit and the odd piece of cheese, but I find it a nice place to hang around for coffee at one of the restaurants / coffee shops and mingle with the locals.              …

  • Day trips,  Our area,  Salies de Bearn,  Things to do,  Walking routes

    The old railway walk from Escos to Salies de Bearn

    A short drive from our house in Autevielle towards the village of Escos, there is a voie verte: a pedestrian/cyclist only route built on the old railway line. You can take a right as you come off our street towards Escos either in your car or on your bike. Stop just before you enter the village of Escos and park, before you join (on foot or on your bike) the voie verte that will take you directly to the spa town of Salies de Bearn within half an hour (if you’re cycling) or an hour and a half if you’re walking. The road is paved and lined by trees on either side.…

  • Daily life,  Our journey,  Work in progress

    The joys of pollarding trees

    When we moved to Maison Barbe in November 2017, we found the driveway covered in leaves from the four huge plane trees on both sides of the entry gate. Walking around the grounds, we’ve identified another four, even taller, plane trees, three of them sustaining the goats’ hut. We didn’t think much about it, but have subsequently found out that the said trees need to be pollarded yearly so they stay under control. If you don’t know what pollarding is (and neither did I until now), it is a method of pruning that entails cutting the higher branches of trees to restrict their growth in height. I didn’t know what…

  • Daily life,  Our journey

    A tale of two goats

    As you probably know if you’ve been following our French countryside antics, the purchase of Maison Barbe came with thirteen chickens and three goats. About a month ago, we lost one of them, Mika, to a ghost pregnancy that turned toxic. Her departure left the remaining two goats, Tilly and Poppy, genuinely bereft and not even breakfast gave them any more pleasure. It was during their grieving period when Buddy came into their lives. Buddy is a on-year old boy goat that belongs to our friends Echo and Darren from Chambres-du-Pont-de-la-Legende.  Despite being a beloved member of their family, they asked us if we could take him in, as he lived…

  • Daily life,  Our journey

    It never snows in this part of France!

    We were told it never snows in this part of France, and yet this morning we wake up to a thick blanket of snow. We make our way as usual towards the chicken coops to get the hay and the feed for the goats (we figured out that we need to feed the goats first, otherwise they don’t get a single bite to eat because the chickens, lead by the new rooster who appears to have no shame, have worked out that they can get a second breakfast chez the goats). It is still snowing heavily when we get to the goats huts. Obviously, they are going to get breakfast…

  • Our journey,  Welcome to Frenchfully,  Work in progress

    Maison Barbe: in the making

    This is Maison Barbe, the cottage we have been renovating since we moved in last year in November. Happy to report that the works are going well and we can finally see it transforming under our eyes and becoming more welcoming than how we found it. To add more space to its somewhat small rooms (typical for this type of béarnaise-style farm house) we have decided to paint all the dark-colours in white or light grey, as you can see from the photo below, which is the living room. We are keeping the original floor-tile, but all the dark bricks surrounding the wood burner have been covered in light-grey paint.…

  • Our journey

    Life and death at the farm

    When we moved to Maison Barbe, we inherited 13 chickens and 3 goats. We have been told they are very easy to look after and require very little. The chickens are funny and they follow you around in hope for more food. The goats, shy at first, also come when food is on offer. We soon also acquired three hedgehogs who are currently hibernating in the coop next door to the one that serves as the chickens residence. Alistair was in London for a week when, one morning, having just let the chickens out of the coop, I noticed the rooster stumbling, as if over something, and falling to the…

  • Our journey

    First night in our new home

      I never thought my French was any good, to be honest. I had learnt it in school  many years before and not practised it for over fourteen years. But I was perfectly capable to talk to the notaire and understand the contract, as well as his jokes. An hour later, we received the keys and drove off to our new home for the first times as owners. Our property comprises of a renovated barn that has been done-up to a very high spec and a farm house that the previous owners rented out as a gite. As charming as the farmhouse was, it was also in desperate need of…

  • Navarrenx,  Our area,  Our journey

    The best or the worst decision of our life?

      Leaving Biarritz meant the end of our mini-holiday. From now on, real life awaited. We picked-up an automatic rental car at the airport and drove to our new home, where we would meet the current (about to become previous) owners and the estate agents, for a visit before signing the papers. Torrential rain started just as we left the airport and it hadn’t eased out at all along the way. But we made it and the property was as great as we remembered it when we saw it in February, even as we caked our shoes with mud walking around it. Bernadette, the owner, took me on a goat…

  • Our journey

    Biarritz, here we come!

    We left London on 5th November with only a couple of suitcases with destination Biarritz. Our cat, Heathcliff, left behind in a cattery in West London until travelling arrangements for him could be made. We stayed at the same hotel (Best Western Kemaris) where we stayed at a little over a year before, when we came to prospect and fell in love with the area. It was raining and cold when we arrived in Biarritz, but that didn’t stop us from going out. We remembered a few places and made our way to Bar Jean, a magnificent Basque restaurant by the central market, where we ordered an excellent Rioja, sardines and…