Gretchen Markle

Travel Blog

(posted on 10 Jan 2017)

So, I'm finally getting around to doing the blog again. I felt I couldn't do it without a painting (photos don't count), and since I have been very lax in the visual art department lately, the blog had to wait. However, yesterday was a warm, sunny day (finally!), and I could get outside. Mind you, now that I'm so desperately out of practice, the resulting watercolours were pretty pathetic. Time to start working to get my chops back.

View of Pyrenees from Mazerolles, France

Here we are in Mazerolles, Hautes-Pyrénées, France. It's a lovely little village of a few dozen farmhouses scattered around the church. It lies on the west side of a valley nestled between two forested ridges. The valley bottom is all fields, mostly maize, with a small river (like one of our creeks) running down the eastern edge. The fields are small and bordered by rudimentarily paved access roads. One can wander for miles, and dogs can run free. There are also trails through the hardwood forests on the nearby hills. "NO TRESPASSING" signs are absent (walkers are welcome), but there are signs everywhere warning against illegal (non-permitted) mushroom harvesting. Nobody messes with their mushrooms!

If one looks south, you can see the Pyrenees looming in the distance. They're generally hardish to see because of the mist, but when they're clear you know that there's a change of weather coming. Yesterday, they were quite visible; today we are having rain for the first time. Generally, it has been sunny, clear and cold, down to -5C at night sometimes. With the cloud cover, things have warmed up to around 10/11C during the day and above freezing at night.

The house is an old, traditionally-constructed farmhouse. Around here, that means an L-shape with the people part in one wing and a covered 'abri' (shelter) and barn on the other wing. The two-foot thick walls are of pressed mud, mixed with field stones, then plastered. The beams are all visible. This house has been modernized with central heating, running water, big windows in the bedrooms, a couple of wood stoves and a Raeburn in the kitchen. It's really quite lovely.

The owners, ex-pat Brits who have been here for 14 years, are very nice and treated us like royalty in the couple of days before they left on their trip. We look forward to seeing them again on their return. Our charges are three dogs and two cats, all pretty well rescues, and all very sweet. We take the dogs for a long walk every day, which is truly exciting for them - at least judging by their reactions as soon as we put on our boots and coats. Not to mention the way Fizz grabs the leads and tugs on them even before we have them on the dogs.

We get our provisions in a somewhat larger town about 15 minutes' drive away, Trie-sur-Baïse. There's a big market on Tuesdays, a small one on Sunday, a few boulangeries/patisseries (great bread), a boucherie, a cave (with unbelievably cheap, good bulk wine - try $3 per 1.5 litres!), a produce store, and more, plus a big supermarket just down the road for anything you haven't found just off the town square. Prices are similar to Vancouver Island, though some meat is quite a bit more expensive. That's fine, since the produce is plentiful and of good quality.

As you can see, we've found a little piece of paradise.‚Äč